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Western NY

Museums on alert for thieves

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Rochester: Museums on alert for thieves
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Area museums are being extra careful after hearing that a pair of burglars may be on the prowl in museums and historic places across Western New York. One museum told YNN's Katie Cummings why they won't even allow the men to step foot in their building.

NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. -- The North Tonawanda History Museum is on high alert after learning two brothers accused of stealing items from area museums in the past are back in the area. The Western New York Association of Historical Agencies says Michael Ortiz was spotted on October 19th at the Landmark Society of Western New york in Rochester.

Ortiz, 41, of Medina and his brother, Roy have been in trouble with the law before, charged with stealing from local museums and libraries over the past few years.

"They seem to like things like civil war memorabilia probably because there's more money in it. They would also be looking for things like silver, gold, brass, things anything they could sell just for the value of the metal," said North Tonawanda History Museum Executive Director Donna Zellner Neal.

As a precaution, the museum has set up 24-hour surveillance cameras and flyers as well as an alert system with whistles. They do not have funding right now for glass casings. However, the executive director said the people affected most are patrons.

“You don’t want to not trust the people that come in but you kind of have to keep an eye on everybody who does come in," said Zellner Neal.

Down the street in the city of Tonawanda, there are a string of antique shops and Zellner Neal feels they could also be at risk for theft. One owner says they’ve already developed a system to deal with theft.

"The merchants around here we pretty much give each other a heads up. If we see somebody suspicious in our store then we call everybody else on the phone and give everybody a heads up," said Mulberry Tree Antique Shop Owner Kelly Gromlovits.

Zellner Neal said local police agencies have been helpful in the effort with the Niagara County Sheriff's office even holding a workshop on how to spot suspicious behavior. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP