Community organizers, clergy, and members of law enforcement joined Erie County District Attorney John Flynn to call attention to the rising number of shootings and homicides in the city of Buffalo.
This year so far, 39 people have been murdered citywide according to DA Flynn, and he fears that Buffalo could be on pace for the deadliest year in history.
“We know from a factual historical standpoint, definitively, that shootings and homicides go up between Memorial Day and Labor Day,” said Flynn. “So we are here the Friday before Labor Day to tell the community, we’re not gonna sit by and let this happen. We’re gonna do whatever we can to keep these numbers down.”
1994 saw a record number of 92 homicides in the city according to Flynn. He and others hope with increased resources to groups like the Buffalo Peacemakers, MAD DADS, and others, a communal effort can be made to curb the violence.
Pastor James Giles who leads Back to Basics Ministries and works with the Buffalo Peacemakers said the pandemic had an impact the last 14 months on their community engagement, but groups need renewed support and resources to get back to the same level of boots on the ground action.
“We have been able to approach young men and get them to change their mind about a plot to shoot somebody. Why are you not gonna fund that, and adjust resources in somebody that has that power? That's what it's going to take to turn this around,” Pastor Giles said. “When the community opens up we're ready, we're in place. But do we have enough resources to really carry out what needs to be done? That is the question, how do we get resources to that type of force to be on the ground to speak into the life of young men that would dare harm another person?”
Other speakers like Buffalo Common Councilman Rasheed Wyatt said more can be done at a broader level. Violence he said stems from systemic racism and poverty.
“Unless we deal with the issues of systemic racism, job opportunities, child development, education, and a whole plethora of issues,” said Wyatt. “It's just not one thing. But at the end of the day, [we need] people who have a heart and care.”
Captain Tommy Champions of the Buffalo Police Department said strengthening partnerships with organizations to create an umbrella of community policing can help stem the tide of violence, and prevent young people from turning to a life of crime before it’s too late.
“One of the things that we've been doing is making sure that we go after some of the things that create crime,” he said. “We know the conditions that create crime, we know that social, economic issues sometimes educational issues, lack of information, lack of insight, are some of the things that lead to crimes happening, and it becomes chronic.”
Back to Basics Ministries has been running basketball camps, courses on restorative practices, and has attracted young people from all over Buffalo and surrounding communities to come together in an environment that promotes peace. Pastor Giles and others say methods like these help keep shootings down as they give an outlet for education and social engagement.
As far as funding goes, city councilmembers will meet in July at the start of the city’s fiscal year to allocate resources to anti-violence coalitions.