7 In-Depth: Police, community members hope for less violence in Buffalo in 2022

Hope for less violence in 2022
Posted at 4:09 PM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 16:09:55-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — 2020 and 2021 were Buffalo's most violent years in decades with 65 people killed in 2020 and 67 in 2021.

"2020 and 2021 absolutely reversed the trends of how much better we got in 2019," said Buffalo Police Deputy Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia.

There were 44 homicides in all of 2019, a record low for the City of Buffalo compared to 46 homicides in the first six months of 2021.

"We lost all the ground that we gained," Gramaglia said. "We probably had the largest single year decline in shootings in 2019 when you compare it to 2018. That was something everybody took pride in."

Law enforcement officials began predicting 2021 would be Buffalo's most violent year yet.

Then came July 5th.

During an Independence Day celebration at the Ferry-Grider homes on Donovan Drive, a shooting took the life of 3-year-old Shaquelle Walker Jr.

"I was told that several people got shot, four victims, and one of them was a baby," said Pastor Tim Newkirk. "I had just seen him earlier. It sparked a rage in me."

The rage from the shooting fueled an entire community to change.

"There was a pretty significant change in July of 2021," Gramaglia said. "We changed strategies and we definitely saw a strategy that worked there."

Just three days after baby Quelle was shot, The VIPER Task Force was created, an effort for federal, state, and local law enforcement to work with the community to combat violence.

"That's when we started to see shootings drop," Gramaglia said. "We went from multiple shootings a day to we went days and days without having a single shooting."

Within the first two weeks of it's operation, the VIPER Task Force made more than 130 arrests in Buffalo and Rochester.

"You start solving crimes, you're going to see this stuff tap down because nobody wants to go to jail," said Pastor James Giles.

That cooperation will continue with the Western New York Anti-Violence Forum, made up of 28 groups, including entities like the district attorney's office, Erie County Medical Center, Best Self, community anti-violence groups and more.

"We are discussing, we are strategically planning," Giles said. "Networking. Helping each other knowing what each other do."

And anti-violence groups call upon the community to help, by sharing what they know.

"I encourage the community to come forth and to say that," Giles said. "Once that starts happening, you're going to see less activity around gun violence in this city."

These same groups say they’re dedicating to getting out into community to bring more information to the streets.

"What we're doing is boots on the ground and training in order to level it down because there's always going to be guns," Newkirk said. "There's always going to be violence."

"We are getting training, especially training around engagement, training around trauma informed care, training around conflict resolution," Giles said. "We're going to have training around everybody, all those members, boots on the ground. We're going to be ready for 2022."