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Another Voice: Police-community meetings are making a difference in crime

By Linda Freidenberg and Rich Lee

Recently there have been criticisms and comments about the performance of some Buffalo police officers as well as the Buffalo Police Department. We are not experts in law enforcement, but we do work with more than 20,000 committed neighborhood volunteers through the over 500 block clubs in the City of Buffalo. Our focus is to work with, and to candidly communicate to improve, our community.

Two years ago, we started Police Chief-Community Meetings in each of the five police districts in Buffalo. More than 300 hours have been invested in meetings involving hundreds of neighborhood leaders. The meetings last for approximately 90 minutes once a month where we review overall trends and specific facts of a crime incident.

At first there was real tension; as we progressed, especially with the involvement for the first time in Buffalo’s history of full-time, fully committed community police officers, we were able to make real strides in developing a patrol officer-neighborhood leader approach to dealing with crime.

In one area of A District, there were over 60 larcenies in the form of car break-ins. The district police chief, community police officer and block club members put slingers on all the cars on 20 streets in one evening. One year after that team effort, data revealed that there were no larcenies. In some districts we have received weekly reports on all crimes with addresses and other information. This has led to renewed trust and a real heads-up for neighbors to lock their garages, report unusual circumstances and make other neighbors more aware.

We urge our neighbors to attend their monthly police chief-community meetings. The interchange is very informative and they will pick up a sense of real interest on the part of police officers and neighborhood members to rid the community of crime. The more we are working together, the more candid our interchanges of ideas and information, the more we can jointly accomplish.

Let us not wait until there is a community furor over a crime or incident, but let’s work day in and day out to significantly reduce crime in our neighborhoods. It may not be a headline grabber, but it does impact criminal behavior. We also urge our neighbors to join their block clubs and to participate with their neighbors in helping share useful information about programs and services that can help families and improve the neighborhood.

Linda Freidenberg is president of the Board of Block Clubs of Buffalo and Erie County. Rich Lee is its coordinator.