The Buffalo Police Department is unleashing its newest crime-fighting tool -- a team of 30 officers focused on removing illegal guns, targeting gangs, cracking down on drug traffickers and infiltrating high-crime neighborhoods.
Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson and Mayor Byron W. Brown held a joint news conference Wednesday to announce the formation of the Mobile Response Unit.
The new unit, which is part of the department's reorganization plan, is scheduled to hit the streets beginning Sunday. "This is a new, specialized anti-crime fighting unit," Brown said during the news conference in City Hall.
"Maintaining the quality of life is one of the focuses of this administration as it relates to public safety."
The Mobile Response Unit will use many of the tactics and strategies of Operation Strike Force -- a temporary police unit that made 1,848 arrests and seized 69 guns over 100 days from Aug. 12 to Nov. 19.
The unit will consist of 24 officers, four lieutenants, two detectives and a dog. Their duties will include identifying and targeting gang members, as well as crime hot spots in all five police districts.
The squad also will work closely with the department's Narcotics Unit and several law enforcement agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force, state Division of Parole and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which will help target the flow of illegal guns. The city's housing inspectors will also assist the new unit.
The city had 73 homicides last year -- believed to be the fourth highest number of homicides in Buffalo's history and a 30 percent jump from 2005.
"We are painfully aware that there has been a spike in homicides," Brown said.
Some community leaders said the Mobile Response Unit appears to be a new name for an old unit.
The Flex Unit, made up of 12 officers, emphasized rooting out crime in economically depressed neighborhoods beginning in 1998. It was dissolved by Gipson last January.
Gipson said the Mobile Response Unit will employ technology, crime analysis and crime mapping.
Gipson said the Mobile Response Unit is not just a new named for the Flex Unit.
"We've changed the operational format, and we're gearing it up to work in conjunction with the intelligent policing concept," he said.