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Collaborative effort between 28 groups aims to slow violence in Buffalo in 2022

Posted at 8:30 PM, Jan 14, 2022

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Pastor James Giles, president and CEO of Back to Basics Ministries and administrator for the Buffalo Peacemakers, has put together the largest collaborative effort to combat violence in the City of Buffalo: the Western New York Anti-Violence Forum.

"There are 28 members, including three judges that are members of this coalition. We're discussing, strategically planning, networking, helping each other know what each other does. All of this is an effort to wrap our arms around, especially young people, that are falling through the crack," Giles said.

Law enforcement officials, experts in restorative justice practices, probation, and a multitude of anti-violence groups meet every other Wednesday to discuss how they can help each other.

"We can't expect our young men and women put down the guns and arguing, fussing, fighting and creating mayhem in our community if we the adults can't come together," Pastor Kenneth Simmons, the Director of Recreational Services for the City of Buffalo, said.

The goal is to come together to create a safer 2022.

"Going forward in 2022, we deem to be professional and aggressive with the way we're changing the way the paradigm look of our kids killing each other and the vibes that are going on in the city of Buffalo and eradicate it," Pastor Tim Newkirk of GYC Ministries, said.

"We're not going to have what happened in 2021 and 2020. That's not going to be the thing in 2022," Giles said.

Anti-violence groups are attempting to combat what they say is an alarming trend: the people responsible for shootings are getting younger and younger, and so are the victims.

"You're taking away that ability, that dream to be Miss America or a beauty pageant, to do ballerina or even be a journalist, and go to college. That took a lot out of me," Newkirk said.

"Society has our kids feeling so afraid, so insecure, and so unsafe that when they have that gun in their hand they feel that they're invincible and that gun becomes their big brother, their big sister, their father and their mother. So we have, as a community, failed our children because they do not feel protected at all," Simmons said.

Giles said in the late 90s, there were about 22 "wanna be" gangs. He said by 2018, that number increased to 130. He said that number is even higher now.

"You'd be surprised. There are so many young gangs. That's what they call themselves. These are misguided children who don't know any better. They're trying to represent something they're not even qualified or capable of representing. However, they do have access to guns which makes them dangerous," Giles said,

Giles, Simmons and Newkirk all said the Western New York Anti-Violence forum aims to reduce those dangers by fostering a safe environment for Buffalo's youth.

"How they say it takes a village to raise a child? Well now it's time to activate that village," Simmons said.