U.S. Attorney Uses Movie to Fight Crime

January 15, 2011 Updated Jan 15, 2011 at 12:29 AM EDT

By Kendra Eaglin

January 15, 2011 Updated Jan 15, 2011 at 12:29 AM EDT

Buffalo, NY

United States Attorney William Hochul assembled a cross section of the community in a small room in downtown Buffalo Friday including, the President of the Buffalo NAACP, Buffalo police representatives, clergy members, prosecutors and community activists, to watch a documentary titled: "Lessons From Homicides -- The Buffalo Story."

"All the people here recognize that the violence has gotten to the point where it requires more than one group, more than one agency to try to get to the bottom of it." said Hochul.

The film was an intense labor of love for its producer, criminologist, sociologist and former UB professor Dr. Peter St. Jean. He collected the stories and footage for the project over a five year period.

"We want to understand how it is that we can make a change and often times people think they know what went on but they don't really understand," said Dr. St. Jean.

But the footage took on a life of its own before it was ever released. Whenever St. Jean filmed funerals of murder victims, he compiled copies of the pictures and video to be used in the movie to give to the victims' families.

"For me it's also personal. And for me, I understand there's a simple law of physics that energy follows attention," said St. Jean.

Neal Mack is a student, community activist and musician, and he doesn't want the lessons learned from the film to end up on the cutting room floor.

"I don't want political appeasement. I don't want us to get on TV and get in the newspaper and say we had a meeting and we didn't do any follow up," said Mack.

"It's not a problem that law enforcement can arrest its way out of," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Brown.

Already this year Buffalo saw its first homicide and federal officials hope intervention efforts keep the toll from rising.

"We're going to have those folk, the community folk and the law enforcement people coming together collaboratively to try and not only support the prosecutorial efforts of our office, but also to develop different and other strategies for trying to address the problem," said Brown.

The U.S. Attorney's office is working to form a board for its gun intervention program called Project Exile. The new board is expected to be convened within the next couple of weeks.