Nine men have been arrested in the last month to solve the murders of seven people, victims of Buffalo's street gangs or the illegal drug trade. They ranged in age from 17 to 31.
The investigation was handled by federal agents working with Buffalo police. With the arrests, area residents have reason to hope that two violent gangs have been put out of business permanently.
Recent federal indictments, based on racketeering law, include 54 indictments against the Bailey Boys in the Bailey-Kensington neighborhood and a rival gang, the LRGP Crew, from the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood.
Residents in the area are encouraged by the arrests, although some aren't sure yet whether this is a temporary reprieve or the arrival of better days. Whatever it turns out to be, law enforcement appears to be paying closer attention to these areas. That is welcome, indeed, when peace and quiet can be unfamiliar concepts.
The effort to root out the gangs and solve the murders kicked into high gear in 2010, when Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda took U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. and other federal authorities through the city's trouble spots. That partnership has now bloomed, offering city residents hope for the future and maybe even a sense that their lives matter to public officials here.
It was an important and overdue effort. While other Buffalo neighborhoods may be safe for residents, businesses and visitors, it is damaging to the entire city to contain areas that are chronically unsafe. More dangerously, it is hazardous for those people, often poor, who live in those areas with little hope of escaping. The answer is to make those neighborhoods safe.
Whether that happened with the past month's arrests remains to be seen, but law enforcement clearly did something worthwhile. The trick now is not to let up. Federal authorities and Buffalo police need to keep up the pressure and, indeed, that appears to be happening. Derenda said that another case is close to being solved. Last May, in Martin Luther King Park, one person was killed in a shooting and four others were wounded.
This is not just up to the police. While inter-agency cooperation and the increasing presence of police surveillance cameras have helped pressure the gangs, it is important for residents of stressed neighborhoods to provide police with information that will help improve their streets. That is sometimes difficult, given relations that can be strained, but the resolution of these seven murders should help bridge that divide.
Hochul put it this way: “This is the start of spring, and more people will be out on the streets. Please, if you see something, say something to help us get the worst of the worst. It's a wonderful time to lend your assistance.”
The Buffalo Police Department's confidential tip line is 847-2255.