Police, government agencies and the Buffalo community need to work together.
This was a sentiment emphasized repeatedly during Wednesday night’s summit attended by community activists, police and Mayor Byron W. Brown to discuss solutions to curbing violent crime and homicides in the City of Buffalo.
“Without the community getting involved, without witnesses getting involved, we can’t solve these crimes,” said Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda.
“If we see it, we need to say it,” said the Rev. James Giles, a Buffalo pastor.
“We need to reach across parties, government agencies,” said Erie County Legislator Timothy Hogues, “because, at the end of the day, it’s the human life that we’re talking about.”
Discussion during the often emotional two-hour gathering in the Merriweather Library on Jefferson Avenue ranged from diversity in hiring to youth using public transportation. But two central talking points dominated the discussion: community cooperation with the police and methods of preventing violent crime among youth.
The event featured panelists addressing issues that carried over from a July 17 summit on the same topic. The questions were read from index cards by Hogues, who organized the event along with fellow County Legislator Betty Jean Grant and the We are Women Warriors group.
Brown, who was a panelist, pointed to three initiatives set in motion to help curtail crime. His appearance at the summit coincided with an announcement earlier in the day that the city would help fund a gang intervention initiative with area organizations, dubbed “community peacemakers.” Also mentioned was an effort to employ 1,400 youth this year – the highest total in the city’s history, and the Game Changers initiative, which keeps two community centers open late on Friday evenings for basketball training.
Many of the more than 80 people attending the summit agreed that maintaining havens for youth, including churches, schools and more community centers open late into the evening, is an important method of keeping youth off the streets. Brown noted crime is down 7.5 percent, homicides more than 11 percent and shootings nearly 40 percent compared with last year.
Asked why Buffalo hasn’t implemented strategies used successfully by other cities, Derenda noted foot patrols have become more visible in the city. The commissioner said the city has spent millions in overtime to increase patrols and pointed to the 21 indictments for homicides since 2010. He added that the police department’s partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office has helped incarcerate more than 180 gang members.
Building from both summits, members of Buffalo’s clergy plan to meet at 6 p.m. Monday in Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church on Masten Avenue to discuss not only crime but other contributing factors, including poverty and a lack of education.
The Rev. George F. Nicholas, pastor of the church where the meeting will be held, said, “I think we’ll be making a critical error in our thinking if we just talk about crime.”