BY MATT RICCHIAZZI
In the days after Artvoice and The Buffalo Chronicle published a story detailing the rampant open-air drug trade and prostitution economy that has engulfed the Grant Ferry section of the Upper West Side, residents say that the activity is noticeably quieter than usual. One resident says that only two prostitutes were lingering outside of Frontier Liquors located at 121 Grant, a considerably lower volume than the half dozen or so usually seen at the location.
Drug peddlers on Breckenridge near Grant have also kept a low profile following the article that detailed resident observations of illicit activities at 319 and 322 Breckenridge. Residents are worried that they will return once media attention on the properties has waned.
There has been some increased police presence in the neighborhood in recent days, but no guarantee by the Buffalo Police Department that the presence will be sustained. Others suspect that the Department must be conducting a covert investigation of the drug merchants, who are dealing mostly in heroin.
“These dealers get these young women hooked on heroin, and then coerce them into the sex trade once they can no longer afford their drug habit,” says one longtime resident who asked not to be named. “So they are making money from the drug sales and from selling their increasingly large flock of sex slaves.”
Many residents disagree over the strategy required to combat the problem. Some say that aggressive police enforcement should be the central strategy, while others lay blame on the County and it’s inadequate ability to link heroin addicts with rehabilitation services. Still others argue that legalizing and professionalizing sex work will empower sex workers and weaken the commanding influence of pimps and traffickers.
“We need to shift the addicts away from the street dealers and towards methadone clinics that can wane them from the drug,” says another West Side resident. “A church mission and an clinic would be helpful for the prostitutes, too.”