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Criticism of anti-violence group enters Buffalo mayoral race

Questions over effectiveness of Peacemakers from Walton campaign.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — It hurts us all to see the string of shootings, often deadly, which plague the city of Buffalo and many other cities across the country. Now the search for solutions has even come up in the campaign for mayor.

2 On Your Side spoke with some on the frontlines of this issue.

People who are trying to deal with that violence directly on the streets emphasize that there is a very strong network of anti-violence community organizations already here in the City of Buffalo. And they stress that they know the players because some of them have been there.

Darryl Scott Jr. is the program manager for the group known as SNUG which stands for Should Never Use Guns. Scott spoke with 2 On Your Side about some of their SNUG members saying, "They have a connection already and some may have been bad at some point in time and they turned good. And ultimately this is what you want to do as part of your life transition to help your community."

And while it's seems like yellow crime scene tape at shootings may blend with the yellow and black gear of the state funded SNUG group and the Peacemakers and other such organizations, Pastor James Giles says they are also out there elsewhere and anytime to reach out as mentors. 

"We all have youth that we work with on a daily basis to kind of teach them, help redirect their pathway cause some of them are getting in trouble - they wind up in prison or they'll ultimately wind up in the hospital," Giles said.

Or worse like a fatality

And they act sometimes to intercede and cool a situation down to stop things before they start. As Giles says, "If we were not doing that - listen homicides would be really off the chart."

So it may be somewhat surprising that The Buffalo News reports mayoral candidate India Walton suggests a California based anti-violence group called Advance Peace be brought in. That is because she feels the Peacemakers are really like a civilian police force and too connected to the Buffalo Police Department. 

Pastor Giles says there may be confusion as the Peacemakers helped peacefully buffer between police and protestors last summer. And he says that while her idea may be well meaning, "The Peacemakers are not connected to the police. But they got that perception when all the social justice organizations were doing protests - the Peacemakers were out there. Our role in this community for those that do not know is to keep people from hurting and harming each other."