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Unmanned crosswalks raise school safety concerns

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Buffalo: Unmanned crosswalks raise school safety concerns
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Busy intersections across the city of Buffalo are being left unmanned or assigned to Buffalo Police Officers instead of crossing guards before and after school hours. YNN's Ryan Whalen joins us with more on a story we've been investigating for a few months now.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The intersection at Bailey and Kensington Avenue gets heavy traffic between 3 and 4 o'clock most days.

"The traffic is horrible," said Buffalo resident Stephanie Miller. "You almost see wrecks every time the light changes and all the kids get off here and they're running across."

It's the reason Burt Williams chose to sell his flowers there Valentine's Day.

"There are hundreds of kids around here, literally hundreds of kids," Williams.

The afternoon of February 14th kids crossing the street were on their own. Residents say it's not unusual.

"I've lived around this area most of my life and I haven't seen a crossing guard on Kensington and Bailey in a very longtime," Williams said.

"Forty miles per hour is probably the average speed on Bailey Avenue and at Bailey and Kensington you'd definitely need a crossing guard if not a police officer in that type of situation to control the traffic," said Buffalo Common Councilman Rich Fontana.

In the absence of crossing guards, police officers are being called to make sure children remain safe as they come and go from school.

According to records obtained by YNN there were more than 150 calls to fill vacant intersections between December 3rd and January 10th.

"Really officers aren't really designed to be crossing children unless there's an emergency or no one's there," Fontana said. "But if there's a murder down the street, a robbery, a shooting, someone in need, they're going to be called off and that's unfortunate situation," Fontana said.

In many cases, intersections, like the one at Bailey, remained unmanned.

"It's our goal to ask questions and get answers and that's what we'll do in this case," Fontana said.

Buffalo Common Council President Rich Fontana says he's noticed officers replacing crossing guard in his own neighborhood. He plans to ask the police department to file a report and go before the Council.

"If there's an issue where there's crossing guards that are supposed to be there and they're not, we need to know that," Fontana said. "If Buffalo Police are supplanting crossing guards that aren't in the system, we need to know what the policy is for that."

Among the intersections YNN found regularly received calls for police assistance include Lafayette and Grant, Main Street and Winspear and Delaware and Amherst Street.

A spokesperson for the police department says it's not uncommon for the city to move crossing guards to busier intersections where they can be better utilized.

The Crossing Guards Association signed a new contract with the city last fall. YNN has reached out to crossing guards who have so far refused an interview for fear of jeopardizing their jobs.

City spokesperson Mike DeGeorge says the City does want to know if a major intersection is not being covered. Residents are encouraged to call 3-1-1 if they see this.

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