Modified: May 28, 2021 1:19pm
Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn was joined by Captain Tommy Champion of the Buffalo Police Department, Fillmore District Councilman Mitchell Nowakowski, Lovejoy District Councilman Bryan Bollman, University District Councilman Rasheed Wyatt, Erie County Legislator Howard Johnson, Buffalo Peacemakers, Stop the Violence Coalition, MAD DADS, MVP, and local clergy members to provide an update on coordinated efforts to reduce gun violence and increase community engagement by encouraging residents to report information about shootings and other crime. A press conference was held this morning to announce the resumption of in-person events that bring together citizens, city leaders, law enforcement and anti-violence activists to build relationships and find community-based solutions to improve safety throughout the City of Buffalo.
The announcement was held at the King Urban Life Center this morning in advance of National Gun Violence Awareness Month. In addition to remembering the victims of homicide in June, the annual commemoration draws attention to the increase in gun violence that occurs during the summer months and highlights the impact these crimes have on survivors and the community. It also brings citizens and community leaders together to discuss ways to improve our neighborhoods.
There has been a surge in gun violence in the City of Buffalo this year. According to the most recent data available from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE), there were a total of 91 shootings incidents between January – April 2021 in Buffalo, which is an alarming increase compared to 42 shooting incidents that occurred during the same time period last year (116.7% increase, 79.1% increase compared to 5-year average of 51 shooting incidents between 2016 – 2020). Of the 103 shooting victims this year, 25 people died from their injuries (January – April 2021 data, compared to 49 shooting victims with 12 people killed between January – April 2020). As incidents of gun violence continued throughout the past month, those in attendance of today’s announcement are working to prevent further violence this summer and asking residents to assist law enforcement by reporting information.
District Attorney Flynn, along with city leaders, law enforcement and anti-violence groups, believe that building relationships with residents is essential to improving crime solvability rates and reducing further incidents. Unfortunately, most in-person community outreach events were postponed over the past year due to the pandemic. As social distancing requirements are lifted, more events will be scheduled to provide residents with an opportunity to interact with law enforcement and anti-violence groups who want to educate the public, particularly young people, about the detrimental effects of gun violence and gang involvement. Our goals is to reduce crime by listening to community concerns, addressing issues, creating relationships, sharing information and building trust.
Too often, Erie County District Attorney’s Office is handling the investigation of homicides or the prosecution of an individual involved in the criminal justice system due to gun violence or possession of an illegal firearm. In addition to prosecuting offenders, DA Flynn created a Community Prosecution Bureau last year to partner with law enforcement and anti-violence groups in order to increase the office’s involvement in neighborhood engagement initiatives. The Bureau has a prosecutor dedicated to serving as a liaison between the DA’s Office and the residents of Erie County. Chief Danielle D’Abate is responsible for gathering information and assisting to address concerns related to crime and other quality of life issues. The Bureau coordinates volunteer events where staff from the DA’s Office works alongside the Buffalo Police Neighborhood Engagement Team and other organizations in community clean-ups, beautification projects at municipal housing complexes, holiday meal distributions, etc.
“The traditional role of the District Attorney is to be reactive when a crime happens in our community. I have taken a more proactive approach by building relationships with our neighbors and educating young people,” said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn. “We also need the community help us by providing information to solve crimes. Some victims and witnesses have a lack of trust in law enforcement, so they are hesitant to report information that may be essential to our investigation. I understand that we need to improve these relationships and address community concerns in order to gain that trust. I hope that by having more in-person interaction at upcoming events, we can work together to get illegal guns off of our streets and stop this unnecessary violence in our city.”
The Buffalo Police Neighborhood Engagement Team (NET), part of the department’s community policing initiative, has been back on the streets conducting neighborhood patrols and building relationships with residents. Lead by Captain Tommy Champion, NET has been collaborating with city council districts to conduct neighborhood clean-ups to address neglected, blighted areas in an effort to improve a quality of life issue for residents. Members of NET are expected to go door-to-door in neighborhoods where shootings have occurred to distribute information about the Buffalo Police TIP CALL line.
"One violent incident is one too many. We continue to work with local, state and federal agencies on a number of initiatives including shoot review and custom notifications. We continue to focus our efforts with community policing and working with residents every day," said Mayor Byron W. Brown.
“Violence is never a solution for the problems we face as a community. I hope Buffalo residents know that resources are available to help them, like Community Police Officers, the Buffalo Peacemakers, Back to Basics, the Stop the Violence Coalition and SNUG - and my office as well. These resources are safe, confidential, and work hard to prevent violence in any form from occurring. Summer is almost here and we should all enjoy this season of family, of community, and re-kindling all the things that make life precious as we come out of this pandemic,” said Fillmore District Council Member Mitchell Nowakowski.
“The increase in violence across the City of Buffalo is affecting us all. We need to work together to protect our neighborhoods, everyone deserves to live in a safe community,” said Lovejoy District Councilman Bryan Bollman.
“Unfortunately, the University district is no stranger to some of the unrest that the entire City has seen this year. I hope that we can come together as a community to stamp out cruel acts of violence. Together, we can make Buffalo a better and safer place to live for our families and friends who just want to make it to school or work safely. I hope that anyone who feels they may be in an unsafe situation takes advantage of the resources available to them,” University District Councilman Rasheed Wyatt.
"This is our community. Let's take care of our community and let's take care of each other. Violence is never the answer, so if you see something, say something," said Erie County Legislator Howard Johnson.
Residents are invited to attend a Community Day at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park on Saturday, May 29, 2021 from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. hosted by Councilman Nowakowski’s office. There will be a giveaway of hamburgers, hot dogs and children’s bicycle helmets (provided by the Police Athletic League) to those in attendance. Members of anti-violence organizations will be available to provide information and support.
Anyone with information on a shooting or other crimes can contact the Erie County District Attorney’s Office by calling 716-858-2424. Information can also be reported anonymously by calling or texting the Buffalo Police Department confidential tip line at 716-847-2255.