BUFFALO, NY - Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown was blunt, “There are no good illegal guns.”
In his third term of mayor, Brown has seen street violence, often fueled by illegal firearms wreak havoc on his city. Just three years ago, Buffalo had one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. Most homicides went unsolved.
Today, on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, Mayor Brown and Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda spoke at a news conference about the evils of gun violence and efforts to get illegal firearms off the streets.
“In the first four months of 2016, we saw a 50% increase in confiscated handguns in the city of Buffalo,” said Brown.
Derenda added, “We know where the guns are coming from. More than 50% come from within New York State.”
Many of the confiscated weapons, said Derenda, are either stolen from legal owners’ homes or improperly handed-off.
And guns have been used in the vast majority of Buffalo’s homicides. In past years, the city police department solved a third or less of its homicides. In 2014 and 2015, the so-called clearance rate has been 45%, a modest improvement.
Brown says efforts have been made to improve the relationship between city residents and the police force. As recently as last year, Derenda said that potential witnesses of crimes would often not come forward to help.
Another relationship that has apparently improved is the critical one between the BPD and the Erie County District Attorney’s office. Last year, 2 On-Your-Side reporter that then-DA Frank Sedita was seen by detectives as too conservative. Complaints centered on Sedita rejecting cases that were not “slam dunks”.
After Sedita left to become a State Supreme Court judge, the job was taken over by now-Acting District Attorney Michael Flaherty. Since then, it appears the relationship between the DA and BPD has improved.
“More and more prosecutions are taking place and more and more cooperation," said Derenda.
There also seems to be proof that Flaherty may be a more aggressive prosecutor.
In the first quarter of this year when Flaherty took over, his office has opened 25% more case files than in the same time period when Sedita was still in charge.