Carmen Rivera handed out plastic containers with chocolate milk and bologna sandwiches Friday morning in Riverside Park, as more than a dozen children stood in line for the start of the day’s free summer lunch program.
Beaming sunshine, soaring seagulls and a view of the Niagara River created a picturesque summer scene.
But the scene is not always so rosy at the park in the northwest part of the city.
Lunch program staff members sometimes find discarded drug needles from the night before lying around the grounds where they serve lunch. Fights among young people are not uncommon.
And last month, two people were shot in the park – one on the basketball court in the middle of the afternoon.
“They bring the beef from the streets, and they bring it over here,” Rivera said.
That happens all too often, especially in the summer in Buffalo. And that may help explain why at least 37 people were shot in the city during July, according to statistics The Buffalo News compiled from Buffalo police reports. In fact, more people were shot in Buffalo in July than any other month so far this year.
Gunfire accounted for four of the city’s five homicides last month. At least 33 people were wounded in 28 shooting incidents.
The first shooting at Riverside Park occurred July 17, when an SUV pulled up and shots were fired from inside, striking a man in the hip. Another shooting occurred July 27 on the basketball court, when a 14-year-old boy was hit in the shoulder.
But Riverside Park wasn’t the only spot where multiple shootings occurred or occurred within just a few blocks of each other:
- Two shootings occurred on Fulton Street in the Commodore Perry Homes. On July 10, a man showed up at Erie County Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the calf. On July 30, two males were shot in the same 100 block of Fulton.
- Two shootings occurred near Schiller Park in early July. In the early morning hours of July 5, a man was shot in the leg on Sattler Avenue in what police described as an accidental shooting stemming from “celebratory gunfire” tied to the Fourth of July. On July 8, a male was shot near the corner of Block and Theodore streets.
- Two shootings happened over four days on the 1200 block of East Delavan Avenue, a few blocks east of Bailey Avenue.
- All of the gunfire leaves residents struggling to cope.
In the Commodore Perry Homes, a 22-year-old man who has lived there 11 years said he tries to keep to himself and doesn’t go outside his apartment with his fiancée or two young children after the sun goes down.
“It’s not cool to be outside around here at night,” said the man, who declined to give his name for fear of becoming a target of violence.
A 17-year-old who moved to the Perry Homes about 18 months ago with his family said he doesn’t go outside his house at night.
The violence in the area is the result of a combination of gang members, drug activity and young people just causing trouble, the teen said.
He said he knows of four or five shootings in his neighborhood since he moved there. “It’s dangerous out here,” he said.