BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — In October, Trini Ross became the first African American woman to serve as the U.S. Attorney in Western New York. But that isn’t what is most meaningful part of the job to her.
“The most meaningful part of me having this job is my ability to be able to do this job, lead this office, and lead the 17 counties in the Western District of New York to reduce crime,” she said during an interview in her Downtown Buffalo office this week.
Ross takes over from James P. Kennedy, who spent about five years as the region’s top prosecutor. She is no stranger to the office. She was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the district from 1995 until 2018.
“These are communities where I lived,” she pointed out. “I grew up on the West Side. I lived on the East Side, in the Bailey-Kensington area for nine years and raised children there. I understand these communities. I understand the people. I understand the mindset.”
“What’s different, I think, about me is that I have a level of understanding that perhaps other people in this position had not had,” Ross said.
Most recently, Ross was the Director of Investigations for the legal division of the National Science Foundation’s Office of Inspector General in Alexandria, Va. Earlier this year, Senator Charles Schumer recommended President Joe Biden nominate her for U.S. Attorney.
“I was proud to recommend her for this position, knowing that she will continue her commitment to the highest standards of legal professionalism as the newest United States Attorney,” Schumer said when Ross was nominated in July. She would later be confirmed by the Senate.
Now that she is back home, News 4 asked Ross what she wanted Western New Yorkers to know about her.
“That I want to re-engage with the community,” she responded. “I want this office to gain back the trust that has been lost in the criminal justice system.”
Ross said she wants to do that through outreach. She said she is working with the FBI, which has already had one community meeting. She also plans to have a community liaison. This will all happen as her office continues to prosecute federal cases.
“We’re in a pandemic. The government is pushing out a lot of money to deal with that pandemic. With that comes fraud,” Ross said. “We’re in a time of civil unrest. With that comes other issues.”
Ross is well aware of the violence that has plagued the streets of Buffalo and Rochester in 2021. She called violent crime a priority. Kennedy, her predecessor, organized the VIPER Task Force in July, which ran through the month of October. In the first two months of that task force’s existence, federal authorities say they took 122 guns off the streets.
“Whatever works from that task force, we are going to take and move it forward,” Ross said. “We’re probably not going to have a task force exactly like the one that was set up, where we’re sending federal agents into communities. But we will have a task force where we are looking at crime, numbers, areas, and what we can do to decrease that.”
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.
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