While it is not going to eradicate violence on the streets, the cooperative effort among city, county and state law enforcement is already having some effect. Such efforts should be encouraged and reinforced by the community.
One way to help fight crime is to offer cooperation. With this, residents send a clear signal to criminals that they won't stand by silently. The failure to act turns those witnesses into virtual accomplices in the criminal behavior.
This week the multiagency police strike force issued the heartening statement that it had made 145 arrests and seized nearly $2,500 in cash during the first 10 days of an effort to target crime hot spots across Buffalo.
This comes on the heels of a report by News staffer Maki Becker about a multiagency effort that dedicated two years to breaking up violent West Side gangs. The 10th and 7th street gangs required a full-force attack, resulting in 14 convictions and federal prison time for gang members. The homicide count has dropped from 60 in 2009 to 36 last year. So far this year, there have been 18 homicides, about last year's rate.
But with what police believe to be about 100 gangs operating in the city, some with national affiliation, the problem persists. As Becker reported, the task force that took on the 10th and 7th street gangs comprised two FBI agents, two Buffalo homicide detectives and two State Police investigators. U.S. Attorney William Hochul Jr. said the task force made use of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act that was used against the Mafia in the 1970s.
Gang members inadvertently aided law enforcement by posting photos of themselves on their social network sites, identifying themselves as gang members and throwing gang signs. The arrests have made a difference, according to community leaders. It took a major cooperative effort and good investigative work into unsolved slayings to bring those gangs down. Now that same effort is being aimed at crime in the streets during the heat of the summer when criminal activity is on the rise.
Mayor Byron W. Brown was joined by representatives of the Buffalo Police Department, Erie County Sheriff's Office and State Police in announcing this latest crackdown. They had something solid to boast to the community and a clear message to deliver, both to law-abiding citizens and the criminals targeted by the citywide effort.
Residents and small business owners in high crime areas certainly welcome the increased attention. It is up to them to work for cooperation with police to create a safer living and working environment and, in the end, saves lives.