Feb 6


Blizzard looting mostly in white neighborhoods

Contrary to the public perception, most of the businesses broken into during the storm were away from the East Side. The suburbs were not spared.

More than 100 businesses were looted during the “Blizzard of ’22.” While press and social media accounts focused on theft on the city’s East Side, an Investigative Post analysis found most of the looting took place elsewhere in the city and in the suburbs.

Investigative Post identified 108 looted businesses, using posts on social media and reports we obtained  under the Freedom of Information Law from police departments in Buffalo and the first-ring suburbs of Amherst, Cheektowaga and the Town of Tonawanda.

About 40 of the 108 businesses targeted were on the East Side. Stores on Broadway, Bailey Avenue and Genesee Street — some of which have yet to reopen — were the most frequent targets. Around 20 each were in Black Rock and Riverside. 

The North District had 22 looting-related incidents, more than any other Common Council district in the city.

“They hit Grant Street, they hit Niagara Street, they hit Hertel — surprisingly. There are places all over the city that were hit. It wasn’t just the East Side,” said Pastor James Giles of Back to Basics Ministries.

Out in suburbia, Cheektowaga reported 13 break-ins; Amherst, seven; and the Town of Tonawanda, three.

Looters’ most popular targets were dollar stores, pharmacies and convenience stores.

Fifteen out of 22 confirmed dollar store burglaries were Family Dollars. Seven Rite Aid drug stores were burglarized in Buffalo, as well as seven 7-Elevens across North Buffalo, the West Side and Cheektowaga.

Big-box stores were not spared. For example, the Target on Delaware Avenue in North Buffalo, near the city line, was looted no fewer than three times. Thieves used a U-Haul truck during one of the break-ins, making off with $9,000 in electronics.

Four groceries were looted, all on the East Side. They include two Save-A-Lots, an ALDI, and the Broadway Market.

The Save-A-Lot on Genesee Street suffered $750,000 in losses and damage.

“The management team was devastated. This is what they did on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day; they basically watched the looting on their cell phones,” said Daniel Eichelberger, the store’s regional manager.

“We have about $150,000 in insurance, so we’ll be eating the rest of that ourselves. It is going to be a concern going forward if this store is going to be a profitable location for us.”

The Aldi on Broadway near Fillmore lost about $400,000 due to stolen goods and vandalism.

The Erie County District Attorney’s office confirmed 22 arrests related to the looting across the region — 19 in Buffalo and three in Amherst. 

Unlike other areas, some of the stores looted on the East Side remain closed. They include the Family Dollar store in the Jefferson-Utica Plaza, adjacent to the Tops Friendly Market that was the scene of the May 14 murder of 10 people.

“[With] the small amount of businesses here, it really devastated this community probably more than the others,” Eichelberger said. 

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There’s concern that some may never reopen, and that the looting could discourage investment. 

“That has been investors’ concerns about developing on the East Side or in those urban communities,” Giles said. “Their concern is, there’s heists, theft, or something’s going to happen where it’s not going to be profitable for them, and this only further drives that point home for them.”

That concern is shared by Alexander Wright, founder of the African Heritage Food Co-Op.

“I believe the folks that were already against investing in our community are going to point to this looting and go, ‘See? This is why we can’t go there. They’re just going to rob it and destroy it.’

“That was a very small percent of the community. Most of the folks were being good neighbors, helping each other.”

Wright said he’s hopeful that the closing of some chain businesses might open the door for small, locally owned enterprises.

“Some of these stores that have closed and are never coming back, I feel, were looking for an excuse to never come back,” he said. 

“They’ve been in our communities for a while, prices haven’t been great, they haven’t met a lot of our needs anyway, and I’m hoping that with some of these spaces closing, it will give us an opportunity — not just us as a co-op, but us as a community — to come up with real solutions in these spaces.”

Investigative Post

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