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City Lawmakers Discuss Combatting Violence in Buffalo

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Buffalo lawmakers and community leaders say it's time to get serious about fighting violent crime on the city's East Side.

Buffalo Common Council members called the meeting that was attended by community leaders, the District Attorney, and representatives from the police and Sheriffs' departments. They met to discuss ways to stem Buffalo's rising number of violent crimes. Drug related shootings and homicides are on the rise, especially in the city's poor neighborhoods.

Community leaders challenged officials to communicate better and find the resources to fight violent crime in the city's disadvantaged neighbors. Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Blankenberg says they're concentrating efforts where they count.

"You don't always see what we're doing," Blankenberg said. "A long time ago we learned that getting the kid, on the corner, with a little bit of dope isn't solving the problem. He's not a big player. It's a misdemeanor possesion. Usually, they're back out on the streets in a short period of time."

But some lawmakers and community leaders disagreed. They say curfews need to be enforced and surveillance cameras used in crime "hot spots" to send a message of zero tolerance. Anthony Brown with the Stop the Violence Coalition says the problem is being ignored.

"When we're sitting outside at night, there are 15 young boys under the age of 18 standing on the corner, and eleven police cars go by," Brown said. "None of them stopped to say anything to the children. I'm tired of the East Side being the last to get anything done."

Law enforcement officials say they will look harder for funding to pay for stepped up enforcement and camera surveillance. And Council members introduced a slate of resolutions calling for tougher enforcement, investigations, and a public hearing on the issue.