The city will hold its annual gun buyback program earlier than usual in an effort to get guns off the street before crime increases as the weather gets warmer.
Mayor Byron W. Brown and Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda on Tuesday reiterated their support for the event, scheduled for May 4, though critics have said that criminals won’t turn in guns they plan to use and that many recovered guns do not work.
“This program is just one small step in many, many strategies that the Police Department employs to get guns off the street,” Brown said.
During the buyback, officers do not ask questions of people turning in guns, and the weapons are not tracked to see if they were used in crimes or to see if they were obtained illegally. The event is not limited to city residents.
Buffalo will issue pre-paid credit cards for various types of weapons: $10 for non-working or antique guns; $50 for rifles and shotguns; $75 for handguns; and $100 for assault weapons such as Uzis and AK-47s.
Though the pre-paid credit cards are funded with money seized in criminal investigations, the city does pay police officers overtime to conduct the event, which is funded by taxpayers.
During the last buyback, in August, the city paid out $32,065 in pre-paid credit cards to people who returned guns, and also paid $15,407 in overtime costs, according to an audit prepared by the city comptroller’s office.
The last buyback yielded 745 guns, including 294 that did not work or were antiques, five assault weapons, 253 handguns and 193 rifles or shotguns.
The city has recovered 3,697 guns in the last five buybacks.
Though the law enforcement community debates whether gun buybacks are effective, some communities have just recently initiated them.
In Niagara County, the cities of Lockport and Niagara Falls held their first gun buybacks in February, which recovered more than 300 total guns. Buffalo’s buyback will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at these locations:
• True Bethel Baptist Church, 907 E. Ferry St.
• St. John Baptist Church, 184 Goodell St.
• Church of the Good Shepherd, 96 Jewett Parkway.
• St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 213 Ontario St.
• St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 450 Abbott Road.
• Prince of Peace Christian Church, 190 Albany St.
• Primera United Methodist Church, 62 Virginia St.
Brown and Derenda were joined at police headquarters on Tuesday by a group of community activists and chaplains from the Buffalo Police Department in announcing this year’s buyback. Representatives from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which is publicizing the buyback on bus shelters, and Lamar Advertising Co., which has offered its billboards for the effort, also attended.