For more than 20 years, the Rev. James Giles has worked with at-risk individuals, from those coming out of prison to those who may soon find themselves there.
As coordinator of a coalition of anti-violence groups known as Buffalo Peacemakers, Giles’ work has taken him across the city, including to a pocket on the East Side near Genesee and Doat streets that carries the designation of having the most shootings in the city over the last six years.
Giles says that a number of street gangs or “crews” operate in and around this roughly nine-block area, and the shootings there are often sparked by disputes among rival gang members. One of the groups at the center of the violence call themselves “the 2-4,” named after the Metro Bus route that runs along Genesee, Giles said. Sometimes the 2-4’s members are the shooters; other times they’re the targets. Gangs from other parts of the city also play a part in the violence here, he said.
“The East Side is kind of plagued,” Giles said. “This is the lot that we’ve had and we actually require more resources to be able to transform or change the conditions that are in the community.”
A number of organizations, in partnership with city officials and police, are working to provide the needed support for the community through a variety of programs, including mentoring, job training and other services. But Giles believes more can be done to fix the problem.
The efforts on the East Side lack the connectivity and camaraderie seen in the efforts of groups on the city’s West Side, he said. Many of the types of problems on the East Side are foreign to residents of places like North Buffalo and South Buffalo.
It’s not just money, either, he said. It takes the time and talent of individuals looking to pitch in to help transform the community.
“You have a number of programs that are designed to help individuals,” Giles said. “We’re doing the very best that we can with the resources that we have. But it takes a more collective effort.”