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New Buffalo police program aims to improve outreach

"We think it's going to build some trust in this community and that's what makes our streets safer," said Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A new program from Buffalo Police is trying to turn a sometimes-worrying situation into an opportunity for engagement.

The program involves having Buffalo Police Officers return to a neighborhood to speak to residents following law enforcement action such as a raid or sting operation.

A raid on Grote Street Thursday morning, resulted in members from the Buffalo Police Department, the FBI, and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office returning to the neighborhood later that same day. The raid involved the arrest of seven individuals who were later indicted for drug conspiracy and sex trafficking.

The group of about a half dozen officers, agents, and deputies walked door to door, spoke to neighbors, and handed out fliers with police resource information on them. 2 On Your Side followed along and spoke to several neighbors.

While some were initially wary to see a large group of law enforcement individuals walking around their neighborhood once people found out why they were there, their worry faded.

Kate Dixson, who lives just a couple of houses down from where the raid occurred said she didn’t hear it Thursday morning but was grateful to find out about it from the police.

“I haven't heard anything like it [the program] and I kind of appreciate it because sometimes you're like what was that in the neighborhood and then you have absolutely no idea and you're like well I hope it was okay,” said Dixson.

During a press conference Thursday evening, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia acknowledged that a large law enforcement presence can be unnerving for neighbors. He said his inspiration for the program came from other cities that had seen success with it.

“We think it's going to build some trust in that community and that's what makes our streets safer, that's what gets us the information that we need and that's what builds those bonds,” said Gramaglia.

He added that the program has been going on in Buffalo for the past two months. Thursday was the first time it was publicly discussed.

Anthony Artist was one of the first people to speak with the group, led by Buffalo Community Policing Captain Tommy Champion.

"You know we feel safe with them around you know to serve and protect so hey I'm all for it and I'm sure other people are too,” Artist said.

“I think doing this gives us a more holistic view and a more balanced take and strategy to make sure we're addressing their needs and to address crime prevention you know we need to have more of a presence in our communities and we need to be able to engage with our citizens and this is just one more way for us to be able to do that,” said Captain Champion.

He added, “it's not just law enforcement acting on the community it's very much a partnership between both of us to try and get to the bottom of the issues and make the community better for everyone.”