BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Crime is now a central, controversial topic in the race for Buffalo mayor. Current Mayor Byron Brown said he fears for the city under Democratic primary winner India Walton's leadership and her desire to defund the police.
"Every time she talks about defunding police, which will make our community less safe, which will make our home values go down, which will make our children less safe, that is more time that people are calling us and showing their support for our candidacy," Brown said.
BUFFALO MAYORAL CANDIDATES ON CRIME: @MayorByronBrown says he fears for the city under Democratic primary winner @Indiawaltonbflo leadership and her desire to defund the police. @WKBW pic.twitter.com/nCOJdTxlz5— Olivia Proia (@OliviaProia) June 29, 2021
Last week, Walton told 7 Eyewitness News anchor Ed Drantch that she never said she'd defund the police. She said the same Monday.
"I have never said defund the police. I'm not sure what it is that he's getting at," Walton said.
TYPO: @Indiawaltonbflo told Ed Drantch she never said she'd defund the police.— Olivia Proia (@OliviaProia) June 29, 2021
Yet a press release sent out jointly from several activists including India Walton in September, before she was a candidate, said, "We are calling to defund the police by funding programs and agencies that are equipped to handle rapid response calls that involve mental health and substance use."
7 Eyewitness News asked Walton where she stands on defunding the police a third time Tuesday.
"Being an activist is far different from running a political campaign. We know that I need to appeal to the sensibility of a larger audience right now. Explaining what we mean is the strategy that I chose to take during this campaign. Defund is a loaded term that not too many people understand. It's a movement term. In order to break it down, so to speak, we say we are going to reallocate funding," Walton said.
On Monday, Walton said crime has increased under Mayor Brown's leadership, who has the support of the Police Benevolent Association.
"What I have said is police budget is as high as it's ever been and crime is still up. We know that the way to reduce crime that's data and scientifically proven is by providing people with more resources," Walton said.
The numbers according to @BPDAlerts: Part 1 crimes (such as murder, assaults, robbery, etc.) decreased 16% from 2018 to 2019. They increased 1% in 2020. Six months into 2021, part 1 crimes are up 5.8%. Why?— Olivia Proia (@OliviaProia) June 29, 2021
According to Buffalo Police, part 1 crimes decreased 16% from 2018 to 2019. Part 1 crimes include murder, manslaughter, sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson. They increased 1% in 2020. Six months into 2021, part 1 crimes are up 5.8%.
Deputy Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said shootings and motor vehicle thefts are up because the pandemic put community engagement on pause.
"There's a lot of violence interruption work done by the city, done by the peacemakers and snug and various other organizations. Everybody was hampered," Gramaglia said.
In an earlier interview, John Evans, the president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, said this about "defunding the police:"
"It's not a perfect world. There's no perfect science as far as, 'OK you could read the textbook, OK do this, this, and this and this will occur.' That's not it. Things go sideways quickly."