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Buffalo marks Gun Violence Awareness Month with tip campaign

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The City of Buffalo is marking Gun Violence Awareness Month with a series of initiatives, including a billboard campaign and televised testimonials.

Mayor Byron Brown, who announced he was named a statewide chairman of New York's Gun Violence Awareness Month, said the first series of billboards will offer $250 rewards for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of people possessing illegal guns.

"There will be eight rotating billboard messages at 31 locations," Brown said. "The first billboard will be going up at 1783 Fillmore Avenue."

A second billboard campaign in July will offer a $2,500 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of suspects in homicides.

In addition to the billboards, the city's awareness initiatives will include video testimonials - broadcast on the Buffalo Police Department's website, on Facebook and on public access channel 22 in the city - by loved ones of homicide victims.

Among the survivors appearing at Mayor Brown's Monday news conference in City Hall was Sandra Green, who lost both of her sons to gun violence. One of the killers is now serving a life sentence, while the other has yet to be brought to justice. Green was asked by WBFO in a one-on-one interview about the challenge posed by a public culture to keep one's mouth shut and not get involved in criminal cases.

Green turned to the back story of a classic comic book character, Spider Man, as an example of how keeping to one's own self can backfire tragically. The superhero, who was in reality Peter Parker, decided to make money by becoming a wrestler upon getting his powers. After being stiffed for a payday by a promoter, Parker witnessed a robber strike that same promoter, then let the suspect flee.

"But what happened? He (the robber) ended up killing his Uncle Ben, just because he didn't take an action to stop that individual," said Green. "You never know who you're going to be stopping. My thing to you and everybody else out here is to think about what you're doing. If you see something going on, speak on it."

Activists, including the Peacemakers, along with Buffalo Police hope that improved communication will help continue the city's decreasing crime overall in the past decade.

"We continue to see overall crime fall," said Buffalo Police Commissioner Dan Derenda. "Since 2005, more than a 25 percent decrease in overall crime and a 19 percent decrease in violent crime.

"From time to time we do have spikes we deal with, but with getting the message out into the community and getting the community involved, we think we can do a better job."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.