In response to an increase in violent crimes within the City of Buffalo, most notably multiple shootings in the Fruit Belt neighborhood last month, Buffalo Police have revisited tactics similar to its former controversial Strike Force initiative. Police officials say it's worked quite well in recent days.
Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo opened a Tuesday news conference by announcing the arrest of a suspect in a November 2017 homicide in the city's Riverside section. Roberto Leon is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Luis Rivera in the Shaffer Village public housing complex.
Leon was found, Rinaldo explained when a newer officer in Buffalo Police, Hector Coco, was responding to a call last Friday and thought Leon looked familiar.
"Upon responding to that call for service, he identified the fact that the suspect in that call was possibly the same person that was wanted for a murder that happened back on November 28 of last year," Rinaldo said.
Leon was arrested a short time later.
Rinaldo spoke of a recent surge of violent crime and acknowledged the questions raised whether this would mean a return to the police department's Strike Force, which ceased in March. Rinaldo said many of the strategies utilized in that model are again being used.
"Since we have seen an uptick in the violence, surrounding some of the shootings and homicides that have occurred in and around the Fruit Belt area, our commissioner has re-engaged a number of different officers from our Bravo, Charlie and Edward Districts, to re-engage in the same mission that Strike Force was initially tasked with."
Strike Force was criticized by some for alleged overly aggressive tactics and alleged targeting of minorities. But Rinaldo says officers have yielded other positive results in addition to the arrest of a murder suspect. He also pointed out several illegal guns have been taken off the streets in recent days.
"For the first five days of August, our police have seized over eight guns and have charged over 24 people with gun-related incidents, in 10 separate cases," he said. "This year alone, since January 1 to July 27, Buffalo Police officers have seized over 296 crime-involved guns off our streets."