Where's the money? That is the question being raised by the Buffalo Peacemakers who operate a "Safe Passage Home" program for Buffalo school children.
Using 15-20 staff and volunteers, the Peacemakers head to five dangerous corners every school afternoon so they can spots signs of violence or problems with gangs.
The Peacemakers act as counselors and mediators who end up gaining the confidence of youth. They also act as the "eyes and ears" for police in patrolling areas where many school children pass through.
Buffalo Peacemakers are expecting $70,000 to help fund the program with the money coming from the City of Buffalo and Buffalo Public Schools - but so far the funding has not arrived.
"That's a pretty tough strain because many times you have individuals working and they have to wait to get paid," said Pastor James Giles from the Buffalo Peacemakers.
Several Peacemakers said they can spend as much as 60/hours week working on the "Safe Passage" program.
Last week, the Buffalo Police Department sent the Buffalo Common Council a request for permission to amend its contract with the Buffalo Police Athletic League for an additional $35,000 to cover the administrative costs of the Buffalo Peacemakers "Safe Passage Home Program."
That program uses Peacemakers' staff and volunteers to monitor dangerous street corners every school day from 2-4 p.m. where youth from different neighborhoods and schools mingle.
According to the request from the Buffalo Police Department, the volunteers and staff help provide safety for school children and inform police when they suspect there could be a problem. The information has resulted in officers making arrests and dispersing troublesome groups of youth.
The Peacemakers help monitor these five corners:
-Main and Utica, where 300+ youth from the Health Science, Oracle and Bennett Schools pass through each day
-Delevan and Grider
-Fillmore and Kensington, where police say students pass through the Central Park Gang, whose members are accused of causing 2 of the past 4 gang-related homicides in Buffalo.
-Main and LaSalle where students are in OTC (Our Thug Circle) territory
-Kensington and Bailey where students pass through two gang territories (Pretty Boll Click and BFL)
The request for funding was filed with the Buffalo Common Council and sent to the Finance Committee. It is hoped that it will be voted on by the full Common Council by the end of May.
In one of the the attached video clips, Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen comments on the effectiveness of community-based efforts to deal with violence and gangs.
The other clip is 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly's report which shows the Buffalo Peacemakers in action.