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On city streets, a plea for help in wake of gun violence

Police officers removed 87 guns from Buffalo's streets last month – an average of three a day – as the Police Department confronts an influx of guns that it says has contributed to the high number of homicides so far this year.

"Whenever we have a spike in shootings and shooting-related homicides, we see that it correlates with the number of guns on the streets," Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said.

Officers confiscated 37 percent more guns in February than in January.

The city's 15 homicides since Jan. 1 marks the deadliest start to a new year in at least a decade. On Monday, two separate shootings resulted in injuries to five people.

With 15 homicides, Buffalo off to deadliest start in a decade

Guns recovered in February, either found or confiscated during arrests, included 48 handguns, 14 rifles and 25 shotguns. In January, police recovered 62 guns: 44 handguns, 8 rifles and 10 shotguns.

"The numbers indicate that there has been a substantial increase of illegal guns being brought into the city, and we believe they are coming in from numerous sources," Derenda said. "Previous statistics have shown that half are coming into the city from inside New York State and the other 50 percent from outside the state."

City police work with agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on a daily basis to determine who brings the guns here.

On Thursday afternoon, Mayor Byron W. Brown and police officials went door to door in the neighborhood around Genesee Street and Eller Avenue, where one of Monday's shootings happened, and they urged residents to share any information they might have with police.

"We've gotten a few tips today," Brown said, after emerging from a home on Eller. "Information shared with us will allow our excellent police department to take people with illegal guns and willing to use them off the streets of our city."

Twenty-year-old Danielle Simpson, a friend of the three men wounded in Monday's drive-by shooting on Genesee near Eller, thanked the mayor as he handed her a flyer with the police tip line phone number, 847-2255.

"This makes me feel a lot safer. I grew up in this neighborhood," Simpson said.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown talks to Danielle Simpson while going door-to-door on Eller Avenue as part of a campaign to solicit potential witnesses to come forward with information regarding a recent triple shooting in the neighborhood, Thursday, March 9, 2017. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

 

Besides seeking information, Brown told residents about increased police patrols in the neighborhood.

"We routinely increase the police presence in areas where there has been a spike in crime," the mayor said.

Those responsible for Monday's drive-by shooting remain at large. But police arrested 16-year-old Jamel Russell Jr. in the double shooting from 11:30 p.m. Monday at Michigan Avenue and Best Street.

Authorities charged Russell with attempted murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon for allegedly shooting a 14-year-old and 17-year-old. The older teen was treated at Erie County Medical Center and the younger teen remains in fair condition at ECMC.

Meanwhile, the confiscation of guns continues. Central District officers earlier this week  seized three guns at an indoor marijuana growing operation on the 300 block of Northampton Street.

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Related: As part of The Buffalo News' ongoing coverage of crime and criminal justice, take a look at an interactive map to get more information about each homicide. The map will be updated throughout 2017.

(Information in the map is current as of March 6. Locations on the map are approximate.)

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