Following a spate of shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., last summer, the Erie County Gun Violence Prevention Task Force was formed to promote gun violence reduction initiatives and engage with the community, and as of this week, it delivered its first report on the efforts and successes that followed.
The task force, formed in July 2021 following an executive order from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, has six main priorities:
- decrease gun violence among youth;
- increase funding to programs designed to reduce gun violence;
- work with local law enforcement on strategies to reduce the number of illegal firearms;
- work with marginalized populations to educate about gun violence, issues, and solutions;
- advocate for policies that improve health in communities of color;
- support local, state, and federal programs that advance anti-gun violence initiatives.
Over the past year, it reported that it managed to expand the Summer Youth Employment Program, funneling more than $530,000 of additional funding into the 16-week program last year to give 73 more youth work part-time jobs at pay rates of $15 per hour. It is a program focused on at-risk youth. Additionally, the task force continues to work with the City of Buffalo through efforts like the Community Tree Planting Initiative, to add a green spin to crime reduction in targeted areas of low vegetation.
On top of this, the task force is developing a plan to distribute 300 gunlocks for county residents and to create a map of gun violence hot spots, along with prevention and recovery assets and resources, with the University of Buffalo School of Social Work. To round things out, the group – which includes numerous Erie County departments, local law enforcement, members of the Erie County Legislature, local anti-violence organizations and leaders, and the Live Well Erie Task force – seek a presentation from the Everytown for Gun Safety organization on gun violence throughout the U.S.
“The Erie County Gun Violence Prevention Task Force has been working hard over the past year to form and nurture partnerships, educate communities, and raise awareness of the public health crisis that gun violence has become in Erie County,” Poloncarz said. “With a primary focus on decreasing gun violence among youth and increasing funding for programs designed to reduce gun violence, the Task Force has made great strides in the past year and is continuing to grow its outreach.”
Last year, Poloncarz declared gun violence a public health crisis. Earlier this year, in May, a mass shooting occurred in Buffalo at a Tops Friendly Markets supermarket, where an 18-year-old white supremacist and domestic terrorist gunned down 10 Black people and injured three others.