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Erie County D.A. assesses very violent 2020 in Buffalo

The Erie County District Attorney mentioned some strategies to help combat gun violence.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As 2020 comes to a close, it's been a very violent year in Buffalo with a significant jump in shootings, victims and murders...

2 On Your Side spoke with Erie County District Attorney John Flynn about some renewed efforts to attack the problem. 

In the midst of COVID, another lethal pandemic that has unfortunately plagued the streets of the Queen City before, violent crime involving guns surged again in 2020 after tailing off from 2015 to 2019.

Shootings climbed from 147 in 2019 to 290 this year, and corresponding to that was the number of victims also doubling from 174 to 349. Actual shooting homicides rose from 34 to 46 this year. There may have been additions since we got these figures last week.

Of course there's a sad recurring theme, according Erie County District Attorney John Flynn. "It's occurring in the neighborhoods of our community who are most in distress, where people are in poverty," he said.

So in 2021, perhaps some strategies to deal with it. As we told you last week there has been more of a focus cracking down on illegal guns coming in from other states with looser laws. 

And the recently implemented weekly shooting review panels where all levels of law enforcement meet to review shootings to look for patterns like who the victims were, who they were with, and other connections.

As Flynn notes the purpose, "try to eliminate any neighborhood conflicts, any problems that are maybe occurring in a neighborhood amongst a group of kids."

But there's also an idea that fell by the wayside a bit with COVID. That is custom notification. It's pro-active policing as Buffalo officers use social media postings to identify individuals, often young people, posing with guns and making threats to others, and then actually going to their homes to seek out responsible adults.

Flynn says police directly ask them: "Do you know what your kid is doing on social media? And you try to get to them before the violence happens, and so the Buffalo Police Department was really full bore doing this pre-COVID."

Finally, some police sources are still questioning bail reform and its impact on violent crimes. They note that people arrested for use of illegal guns can sometimes be released with just an appearance ticket for another court date.   There may be another push for modifications in the coming year.