BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — During the first three months of this year, shootings that injured or killed people in the City of Buffalo were down by more than 30% when compared to the same time last year. Those who deal with violence in the city wonder if this will last.
County Executive Mark Poloncarz held a press conference on Monday morning discussing the first report issued by his Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, which was formed by executive order last year. The group comprises local law enforcement officials and other experts.
“Numbers tell a million tales and you really have to look at what drives them,” retired Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo told News 4.
Buffalo Police Department numbers were directly compared to more than 14 other police departments across New York State. The Queen City saw the biggest decrease in gun crime, according to the report. Shooting incidents were down 38% from January to June. Injuries and death by gunfire decline by at least 30%, too.
Experts say easing COVID restrictions helped turn the tides because people were not confined to their homes. They say tensions ran high for many during the early days of the pandemic leading to more random shootings across the nation.
“We were making a conscious decision to come out more [at the end of 2021], law enforcement was coming out more, the community police were coming out more, so that always has an impact on the amount of violence in a community,” Pastor James Giles, coordinator of the Western New York Peacemakers, said.
They say it takes a full community effort to reduce violent crime.
“You cannot have just a law enforcement answer and a community answer,” Rinaldo added. “They have to work in tandem. Anyone who tries to operate in a bubble, the program just won’t work.”
Pastor Giles says getting guns off of the street will help solve the crisis, but he adds that more mental health resources are needed to support community members.
“Individuals and groups are having this mass mental health stuff going on among the collective,” he said. “They need to have some engagement.”
While the state has not released complete numbers yet, officials expect a similar trend from April to June.
“Except for the May 14 shooting, we were continuing to see a reduction in shootings as a community and deaths as a community,” County Executive Poloncarz said.
Poloncarz touts his gun prevention task force for the reduction in violence during the first three months of 2022, but there is still more work to do.
“A decrease is always time for a celebration,” Rinaldo said. “But I think that we can’t just look at the numbers and say our job is done.”
“This thing is a pervasive thing. We need more, and it is all welcomed, and it is all ultimately going to be helpful. We just have to connect the dots on it,” Pastor Giles continued.
Poloncarz anticipates that his gun prevention task force will be working with the new threat assessment team announced by Erie County Sheriff John Garcia after the May 14 racist mass shooting at the Tops on Jefferson Avenue. The County Legislature agreed to fund that new team earlier this month.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.