BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — It was another Saturday night walking the streets as a Buffalo Peacemaker. Murray Holman was approached by a man asking for help getting clean.
"You call me. I'm going to do it for you any way," Holman, the executive director of the Stop the Violence Coalition, said.
Holman said the streets of Buffalo were relatively calm. Everybody has been staying home. But the Peacemakers are out, passing out pandemic kits and making their presence known.
"They see the yellow and they can feel secure and give up information, and we pass it along. We don’t hold it back, we pass it along," Holman said.
He said they use information gathered from simply walking the street to determine where violence may pop up and who may be involved. They use those tips to try to stop it.
This technique all started with Pastor James Giles, the president of Back to Basics Ministries. He organized the first anti-violence group in the city, MAD DADS of Buffalo, back in 1996.
"26 years ago, me and one of my partners were actually coming out of prison. We really wanted to do something to stop people from going to prison, so we started like that," Pastor Giles said.
About a decade later, several other groups had formed. In 2007, they came together to form the Buffalo Peacemakers.
"So we, in a very intentional way, and deliberate way, we would show up. We would show up in those spaces and we were strong," Pastor Giles said.
It worked. In 2019, the Buffalo Police Department reported a 24% drop in shootings year to year. The police department said it was because of community engagement, like the work of the Peacemakers.
"We knew most of the families and most of the kids from our personal work and our original organization. So now you’re out there and you know when kids are cutting up, getting ready to do something crazy. But when you call their name, they stop. They freeze," Pastor Giles said.
It's an effort that still continues today.
"We out here saving lives. Giving out information like this: Stop killing," Holman said.