Police in Buffalo, New York, started a special anti-looting task force in response to a series of break-ins at local dollar stores that were shut down during the severe snow storm that affected the western part of the state in late December.
According to the Buffalo Police Department, the task force has yielded 10 arrests so far.
Police say the task force is continuing to search for individuals seen on videos, which have been posted to the department’s social media, as well as asking the public for confidential tips.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said the department was forced to divert resources away from recovery missions during the snow storm to respond to the chain of break-ins.
“This isn’t people stealing food and medicine and diapers. They are destroying stores. They are stealing televisions, couches, whatever else they can get their hands on. They’re opportunists,” he said at a press conference.
Over the Christmas holiday, police recorded 39 deaths after the city was hit with more than 5 feet of snow. Officials recovered 17 bodies outside homes, 11 inside homes and the rest in vehicles.
“All you’re doing is destroying the resource you have when you need to go to the store again and buy food or whatever else that you need. You’re destroying your community. It will not be tolerated,” Gramaglia said of the break-ins.
On December 28, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office identified four of the individuals that were arrested for the break-ins.
One of those individuals was Felix Ramos, 46, who allegedly burglarized a Family Dollar store on the 400 block of William Street on December 26. The DA’s Office said that Ramos had entered the locked store through a broken front door. He was eventually confronted by responding police officers and taken into custody after his failed attempt to flee. Ramos is being charged with third-degree burglary, one count of second-degree obstruction of governmental administration and one count of attempted petit larceny.
Luiman Velez, 55, was also charged with third-degree burglary and one count of attempted petit larceny for breaking into a Dollar Tree store located on the 1300 block of Broadway on December 27. Buffalo police officers allegedly observed Velez enter through a broken door and attempt to steal various items. Bail was set at $1,500 cash, bond, property or partially secured bond.
Shaniece Jones, 34, was arraigned on one count of third-degree criminal trespass after she unlawfully entered a Family Dollar store on the 2500 block of Bailey Avenue that was burglarized.
Aaron Peterson, 57, was charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, one count of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and one count of second-degree menacing after he allegedly pointed an illegal gun at a victim near a Family Dollar store on the 900 block of Jefferson Avenue.