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Public safety: comparing Walton and Brown's plans

City Hall
Posted at 3:48 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 17:44:09-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — India Walton, Democratic Nominee for Buffalo Mayor, outlined her Public Safety platform on Monday.

Speaking from Martin Luther King Jr. Park, Walton shared plans for what she called safe neighborhoods, safe schools, safe housing, safe hospitals, safe streets, and safety from gender violence and sexual assault.

“For me, the issue of public safety is deeply felt, and deadly serious,” said Walton. “I grew up on the East Side. I have raised four Black boys in Buffalo. I know what it means to fear for the safety and well-being of my closest loved ones.”

Walton noted the housing, healthcare, and job insecurity, intensifying climate crisis, and still-raging pandemic that Buffalonians are still facing on top of devastating gun violence.

“Let’s not mince words: the rates of gun violence and homicide so far this year make it absolutely clear that the current administration’s approach to public safety has been an abject failure,” Walton. “It’s time for a change. It’s time to get serious about public safety in Buffalo.”

The policies in Walton’s public safety platform are based on practices proven to work in Buffalo and elsewhere. Highlights are as follows:

  • Safe neighborhoods: Walton’s priorities for City Hall here include a mobile crisis team staffed by trained mental health professionals as a non-violent first responder corps for calls involving mental health crises, and the LIFE Camp model [peaceisalifestyle.com], a multi-faceted approach to interrupting violence.
  • Safe schools: Walton, a former school nurse, advocates for reducing class sizes and investing in guidance counselors, therapists, and school nurses, rather than the school-to-prison pipeline.

“I had a child come to me because they saw a family member be shot, stabbed, killed, or experienced community violence in their own home. So, having smaller class sizes and access to mental health services in the school building is going to be critical to the success of our children.

  • Safe housing: An accomplished executive of a democratically-run housing development corporation, Walton believes in fostering Community Land Trusts to provide affordable housing on a permanent basis, and shifting homeless outreach responsibilities from the police department to social workers, community organizers, and other professionals trained in connecting unhoused people to services and housing.
  • Safe hospitals: Given that nurses like Walton and other hospital workers suffer terrible rates of workplace violence, the Democratic nominee proposes investing in medical social workers to de-escalate tense situations and working with organized labor and Albany to win enforceable safe nurse-to-patient ratios.
  • Safe streets: Walton takes the evidence-based approach that infrastructure improvements are greatly more effective than routine traffic stops at reducing traffic collisions, and supports relocating collision investigation from the police department to the Department of Transportation to streamline life-saving improvements.
  • Safety from gender violence and sexual assault: Walton, herself a survivor of domestic violence, believes in community-based supports for survivors and non-carceral restorative justice practices to put those who have done harm on a path to accountability, amends, healing and growth.

On the other hand, Mayor Byron Brown said community policing continues to be the right approach to public safety.

REPORTER ALI TOUHEY: She calls your safety plan over the years an “abject failure.” How do you respond to that?
BROWN: She absolutely doesn’t even know the services that city government provides.

He said the uptick in crime from 2020 to 2021 in Buffalo is no different from other cities across the nation dealing with the pandemic. Brown also said the city has seen a decrease in violent crime during his time as mayor. “If you read her plan, she’s proposing services that city government doesn’t even provide which reflects her lack of knowledge of how city government works,” Brown said.

Brown said the city will spend record funding on youth employment opportunities and continue to offer a transition service to re-integrate those previously incarcerated back into society.

To watch Ed Drantch's one-on-one interview with Walton after she won the Democratic Primary in June, click here.