New city surveillance cam helps nab 5 in burglary

May 15--Buffalo police say they caught five looters in the act Wednesday morning -- thanks to the watchful eye of the city's newest surveillance camera.

The camera had just been installed Tuesday afternoon.

Police say an operator, who was sitting inside the city's surveillance monitoring room, used the camera to see images of the looters entering Neighborhood Food Mart, 430 Ontario St., a convenience store in the city's Riverside area.

Just nine minutes later, those five burglars were in police custody.

"They were shocked and they were awed, and we got 'em," said Chief Anthony J. Barba of the Northwest Police District. "They were very surprised. They were there within two minutes. They were still stuffing stuff in their pockets . . . cigarettes, lottery tickets. They had a couple bags and I'm sure they were going to start stuffing their bags."

Shortly after 1 a. m. Wednesday, an electrical problem sparked a fire inside the Neighborhood Food Mart. Firefighters battled the blaze and damage was estimated at about $100,000.

At 2:57 a. m., a camera operator saw the burglars entering the store and notified 911 at 2:59 a. m.

The first police car arrived on the scene at 3:00 a. m, the second at 3:05 a. m.

The four officers had the five alleged looters in custody at 3:06 a. m. -- just nine minutes after they were spotted on the video surveillance system.

Craig J. Chambers, 28, of Auchinvole Avenue; Reynaldo Ortiz, 23, of Evelyn Avenue; and Eric Santiago Jr., of Evelyn Avenue, were each charged with felony burglary.

The two other alleged burglars were juveniles so their identities have not been released. Buffalo Police spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said those juveniles were released to their mothers at the scene and their case is being handled by Family Court.