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May 12, 2013

Tensions rising over private investigator in Town of Niagara

Tonawanda News — TOWN OF NIAGARA — Supervisor Steve Richards says it’s much ado about nothing, no more than a private investigator’s routine review of worker’s compensation claim.

For a town councilman, several of his neighbors living in Belden Center and the owner of one local automotive shop, the presence of a private investigator in the town has prompted not only uneasy feelings, but questions about who is being watched, and by whom. 

Richards confirmed to the Niagara Gazette that a private investigator has been conducting surveillance at various locations in the town in recent weeks. He said the individual is working for the town’s insurance provider as part of a review of a personnel matter that Richards is not legally allowed to discuss in detail in public.  

The investigator’s presence has raised suspicions among some town residents and at least one town official.

On his Facebook page, town councilman and Belden Center resident Rob Clark has chronicled his encounters with a pair of vehicles spotted on several occasions in his neighborhood. Some of Clark’s neighbors have done the same, expressing concerns about the presence of the two cars, one a green Pontiac and the other a red Acura. 

“I live in one of those neighborhoods where if someone doesn’t belong people will notice,” Clark said. “The neighbors are all worried.”

H. James Suitor, the town’s chief of police, said there were calls for a suspicious vehicle in Belden Center and after investigating police found that a licensed private investigator was working in the neighborhood, but he did not know the nature of the investigator’s work.

“We don’t have the right to ask who he is investigating,” Suitor said.

Pretoria Street resident Donald Horton said he recently approached the Acura while it was parked in front of his home. Horton said he asked the person in the car to get off of his lawn after being told by the man inside that he was there on “legal business.”

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