BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — Community leaders in Buffalo are baffled as to why gun violence is spiking during 2020 while other types of crime have dropped to extremely low levels.
"With COVID-19 and all the death around the country, you would think people would have a little more compassion for each other," said Bishop Perry Davis from the Stop the Violence Foundation in Buffalo.
"There is a disconnect that I really don't understand," added Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.
According to District Attorney Flynn, shootings are up 78%, victims hit are up 90%, and the number of people killed is up 81%.
Flynn said his office started to see the uptick of violence in January, February, and March.
While that coincides with the implementation of new bail reform regulations in the state, Flynn doesn't think it is people being released on non-qualified offenses who are doing the shootings.
Even though some of the shootings might be attributed to pandemic stress, Flynn is convinced that New York's bail reform change made it easy for people facing gun charges to post bail. He also believes judges are setting bail too low in order to keep the number of people incarcerated down during the pandemic.
"We don't have the concept in New York of public safety on bail. That needs to change," commented Flynn.
"We've had people who were arrested with firearms that were almost immediately released from jail," explained Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo.
Rinaldo said many of the shootings in Buffalo are targeted with the victims refusing to cooperate with police investigators. "In fact, a lot of times they don't even want to speak to the detectives regarding the people who shot them," said Rinaldo.
The police captain said the inability of officers and community groups to conduct public outreach, because of gathering restrictions during the pandemic, is compounding the problem as it is making it hard to interact with the public and learn about simmering disputes that could lead to violence.
Bishop Davis agreed the public health emergency is adding roadblocks to working with the community. "We are still fighting the good fight but we can't get out there and do anything about it right now."
Buffalo Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President John Evans agrees that changes are needed to New York State bail reform. Evans said it is contributing to the rise in gun violence because "there are no consequences anymore."
Evans also thinks the City of Buffalo needs to add more police vehicles to its fleet to speed-up response times and increase police presence in the community.
In addition, the union president said a lack of support for officers who get into an altercation is making it hard for those officers to deal with dangerous suspects.
"It could be suicide for your career, currently, if you get into a confrontation with anybody," commented Evans.