Battling Buffalo's Gang Mentality

Posted at 6:55 PM, Mar 07, 2017

The City of Buffalo is seeing a surge in gun violence with two people killed over the weekend and five people shot on Monday.  Buffalo Police tell 7 Eyewitness News they are "very confident" that the shootings are gang related.

The shootings raise the question as to whether there is an active gang war going on in Buffalo?

"We do have some gang problems, let me be clear.  However, we also have these pockets of young people, these are kids who get a hold of guns and settle their arguments. And most of them, they didn't go out to kill, they went out to intimidate.  Things get heightened and you use what you have," said Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen.

Police believe individual gang members are responsible for the violence as they seek retribution for things like robbery and comments made on social media.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been 15 homicides in Buffalo, and officials worry the situation could get worse when the temperatures increase.

The FBI Safe Streets Task Force works with Buffalo Police to keep watch on local gangs.

"It is important to know that we don't have a national gang presence here in the City of Buffalo.  What we find is that we have more neighborhood street gangs," said Adam Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the Buffalo FBI Office.

The FBI investigates gangs as criminal enterprises, while Buffalo Police handle the crimes committed by individual members.  The two agencies share information but the FBI resources allow the Bureau to gather more in-depth information such as identifying tattoos that different gang members have. 

According to the FBI, there are currently 700 active gang members in Buffalo as part of 37 gangs (Juveniles are not included in the figures). 

While the number may seem large, FBI officials emphasize that it is about the same size as it has always been - the difference being there has been a more intensive effort to identity those involved with gangs.

Buffalo Police explained that most gang members are only involved with minor crimes, but the department is seeing kids as young as 14 and 15 trying to commit acts so they can join a gang.

Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen believes the time has come to look at some new ideas to curb the growing violence.  

Pridgen would like to see increased help from NYS and the Federal Government, an increased budget for the Buffalo Police Department so it can hire more detectives and special unit members, and the creation of a website where residents can find up-to-date information about ongoing shooting investigations so people don't forget.

"Once the funeral is over and the emotions die down, mouths close," said Pridgen.

It was a sentiment that was also expressed by both Buffalo Police and the FBI.

"Gang violence is very difficult to investigate because witnesses, and often, even the victims, are reluctant to talk for fear of retaliation," said Lt. Jeff Rinaldo from Buffalo Police.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly has more in his reports.