Back to Basics Outreach Ministry, a faith-based anti-violence group started by two reformed convicts in 1994, received a huge funding boost when the state released $366,400 to help reduce gang-related violence in Buffalo, State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, announced Wednesday.
Back to Basics, led by Pastor James E. Giles, is one of seven groups across the state that have received funding to implement a coordinated, community-based strategy that targets high-risk teens.
“It’s about recruiting individuals out of gangs, turning them around so they can come back and convince others that the lifestyle is not only harmful, it hurts the community and families,” said Giles. “At the core of Back to Basics is Buffalo Peacemakers. There is no group in the city able to address violence like Buffalo Peacemakers.”
Peacemakers is a coalition of six anti-violence groups that have worked together to curb violence among teens by patrolling movie theaters and outdoor events, including Juneteenth, First Night Buffalo and the Gus Macker basketball tournament. The group also maintains a presence at street vigils and funerals of crime victims. Key to its success is a partnership with local law enforcement agencies.
In all, $2 million was allotted in the 2013-14 state budget to continue Operation SNUG (guns spelled backward), an initiative started in 2009 to combat gun and gang violence in cities across New York, including Mount Vernon, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.
Locally, Operation SNUG led to a marked decline in violence in two urban neighborhoods, according to officials from the Community Action Organization of Erie County: Bailey-Kensington (ZIP code 14215) and Bailey-Genesee (14211).
“This funding will target neighborhoods hardest hit by street violence and apply a tried-and-tested model of street outreach and violence intervention to cut down on gang activity and reduce violent crime,” Kennedy said at a newss conference Wednesday afternoon at Back to Basics offices, 1370 William St.
At least 20 members of Buffalo Peacemakers attended the newss conference. Most, including Giles, wore bright yellow hooded sweatshirts with the Peacemaker logo.
Since starting Back to Basics in 1994 in a church basement on Jefferson Avenue, Giles has been in the forefront in helping encourage high-risk youth to avoid criminal activity and pursue positive opportunities.
In addition to the street outreach workers and violence interrupters, the program partners with community leaders, activists, faith-based leaders and law enforcement officials.