BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A spike in retail theft is making life absolutely miserable for a number of businesses in the Elmwood Village. And, they’re asking for police to step up patrols.

One business owner, Stephen Lands of Buffalo Fleece and Outerwear says he may need to shutdown his store due to thieves stealing so much merchandise.

News 4 has heard from a number of businesses about thefts in the Elmwood Village, also other issues such as drug use inside local businesses.

Lands says there’s been an uptick in crime, particularly larcenies, in recent months, with a group of people, possibly working together, walking in to distract employees and steal clothing.

Lands says this is happening once a week or a couple times a month. He says he calls police all the time, but the problem doesn’t go away. Lands adds he’s been robbed about 20 times in recent months and says nothing’s being done about it.

“They usually blame it on bail reform and say they can’t arrest them and it would just be an appearance ticket so it’s not worth coming I guess,” Lands said. “This is one of the busiest business districts in Buffalo and it seems like there’s no police presence like if you went to any of these stores they would tell you like people steal from us everyday the guy at 7/11 says some people walk in and walk out everyday with stuff and it happens to all these stores.”

Buffalo Fleece and Outerwear has added surveillance cameras and has made it harder for thieves to steal clothes.

On Friday, Lands says two people walked in while he wasn’t here and stole five high-end winter coats — worth more than $2,000. He says one of them shoved a store clerk and gestured that he may have had a weapon.

Police are aware of the incident and are investigating. A spokesperson for the department says there are patrols in place in this area, including walking patrols.

But, businesses here would like to see more. If things don’t change, Buffalo Fleece and Outerwear says it may have to close down at the end of the month due to the crime.

“It makes me sad, it’s my fiancé’s store and she’s worked here before she owned it and she’s had it for 12 years and its been really hard on us,” Lands said.

Meanwhile, the Erie County DA’s Office will be participating in National Store Walk Month, a new initiative to combat retail crime that’s starting this month.

Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.