Crime, graffiti, and so on. It’s time to Renegotiate with the Buffalo Peacemakers

I am disgusted with reports of recent developments in the city where I was born and have spent my career promoting the City of Great Neighbors. Reports like:

  • Recent stories of Elmwood Village business owners thinking about closing because of shoplifting. 
  • New “public art displays” of graffiti on bridges, park benches, and walls supporting the highways.
  • News reports of more than 2,000 cars being stolen with Police now finding repeat offenders who are getting caught and released yet again.
  • The safety for all those who walk, run, and bike throughout our beautiful Delaware Park after a woman was accosted last week (and thankfully saved by a Good Samaritan).

And most recently, I am not only disgusted but frustrated over fights breaking out on the opening weekend of high school football games in Buffalo, and Kenmore.

I have tremendous respect and admiration for Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph A. Gramaglia, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia, and Erie County District Attorney John Flynn. I know by the passion in their voices at press conferences that they want to see an end to these senseless crimes. They want to bring justice to those arrested after good police work by their officers and deputies. The plain truth is that they can’t because, New York State’s bail reform laws are handcuffing them— and the criminals know it.

Rather than hearing our leaders say everything is being done to resolve these issues, I plead with the Mayor of Buffalo, Erie County Executive, Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent, Buffalo Common Council members and Erie County Legislature members to meet ASAP with law enforcement officials to discuss these recent issues before violence and crime in our city gets way out of hand. I would further ask that Rev. Mark E. Blue, president of the Buffalo Branch NAACP, facilitate this meeting.

The agenda is simple: How do we solve the crimes listed above that are destroying the fabric of our community?

Renegotiate With The Buffalo Peacemakers

Buffalo Peacemakers

I agree the first response will be the city police are taxed to the limit with calls. I get that. 

That’s why I am asking them to renegotiate a contract a current vendor to the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Public Schools—The Buffalo Peacemakers, under Pastor James E. Giles, and The FATHERS Group, under founder Lenny Lane. They have been working for years under stipends from the city and schools and they are an energetic team of volunteers and staff who work all over the city to quell violence, comfort victims, and knit our community. 

Providing them with the needed funds to hire more Peacemakers to patrol these areas while collectively letting the thugs know Enough is Enough, could be a start.  If funding is the issue, ask the local foundations to help out.  With the development of the $110 million Ralph Wilson Park, (transforming the former LaSalle Park on the waterfront), set to open in a few years, the city had better have a security and anti-vandalism and graffiti plan in place for that. Why not create one now for the other venues and expand it to Wilson Park when it is opened?

The Peacemakers, in their distinctive jackets, shirts, and caps, can be street patrols, like the old days, in Elmwood Village, Hertel Avenue, and downtown. They would give visitors a sense of feeling safe. If they run into a problem, they have a direct line to District Police Officers.

Graffiti Getting Out of Hand

I have seen more and more graffiti painted on bridges, sides of buildings, and bridge posts as I drive along Interstate 190. However, it was never clearer what a disgrace this has become than last week when, as a member of the Grand Island Rotary Club, I joined with the Rotary Club of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus for an open house at the West Side Rowing Club,  followed by a walk on the portion of the 61-mile Greenway Trail sponsored by the club.  

Canalside

Fellow Rotarian, Gregory Stevens, led the walk. He is the executive director of Niagara River Greenway and the mastermind behind this trail through two counties and several cities, towns, and villages from the Outer Harbor on Lake Erie, through the Black Rock Chanel, to Youngstown on Lake Ontario.

Greg Stevens, left, and Bryon Bonn discuss issues along Greenway Trail near Peace Bridge Observation deck.
The graffiti on the Bike Path from Porter to the Observation Tower under the Peace Bridge

As we walked, Bryan Bonn of the BNMC Rotary Club, expressed his frustration in obtaining a better working relationship with those in charge of keeping the trail they sponsor from Porter Avenue north to West Ferry Street clean and safe. Along with uncut grass and debris we came upon a graffiti gallery on what is meant to be a beautiful observation deck under the Peace Bridge for bikers, walkers, runners. It is a perfect spot to watch the sun set and crew races during the spring and summer and rest if you are traveling the entire 61 miles.

If I were in charge, I would work something out with the Sheriff to have prisoners whitewash the graffiti (with armed guards watching) while the city revisits the  Graffiti Task Force it once had, to let those who are inappropriately “inking” our city know that it will no longer be tolerated.

Stop the Car Thefts!

Listen to the Buffalo Police Commissioner and DA talk about how their hands are tied in prosecuting car thieves, who are both youth and adults. Now, they are arresting thieves who had previously stolen cars because all they receive are appearance tickets.

I know people who have had their KIA or Hyundai’s stolen. What we do not hear or see are the stories about them and their headaches in dealings with insurance companies and the price of buying a new or used car today. It is not fair.

Delaware Park Abduction: Could Have Been A Lot Worse!

Last Tuesday’s attack around  Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park, near the statue of David and the Pedestrian Bridge, hits close to home. My wife used to run that course several times each morning before work. It is enjoyed at all times of the day by kids, adults, and seniors walking, running, or biking through this beautiful park.

At 350 acres, Delaware Park was the largest of the three original parks and was a landscape that Olmstead and Vaux called a “country park.”  Designed in 1868-70, a rolling meadow dotted with trees and surrounded by woods formed the eastern portion of the park and Olmstead even predicted it was destined to take a “distinguished position among the parks of the world.”  It was named one of the top 10 parks in the world by The Guardian in 2015. 

The attack has been covered daily, but six days later an arrest has not been made. Is there even a person of interest being mentioned. What concerns me are the copycats or the original thug returning to the scene of his crime.

What should officials be discussing about Delaware Park and the Greenway Bike and Walking Trail through the city of Buffalo? How about starting with the status and locations of cameras in those areas, and if more are needed. Are the lights in the poles along the bike trail and in Delaware Park working?

A consistent Peacemakers presence throughout Delaware Park could also bring positive change.

Fights in Stands at High School Football Games Must Stop!

The fights that ended the Buffalo Public School football game at halftime at the Robert E. Rich All High Stadium behind Bennett High School on Main Street and caused all the spectators to be asked to leave Crosby Field in Kenmore so they could finish the fourth quarter with no fans this past weekend. This isn’t just disturbing, it’s sad.  I feel for the players who work so hard, and whose performances could lead to a college scholarship, as well as for the wonderful students who attend for school spirit. To have it ruined by thugs is shameful.

Police Commissioner Gramaglia profiled these thugs as possibly coming from homes where they are not receiving proper guidance in how to behave when they leave their homes. His exact quote during a weekend press conference where he announced four teens were arrested and another is  being sought. Was as follows:

 “Parents, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, who are the guardians of these teen-aged kids, must talk to them about these behaviors. If they are having trouble with these kids at home, call us. We have an increased presence in schools, and we have members of our teams who can work with these kids before problems like this occur.”

Aside from bringing God into the conversation, I just wish these thugs had the benefit of hearing my parents’ daily philosophy, which has stuck with me and my brothers throughout our lifetime:

“Treat Everyone Like You Would Like to Be Treated!” 

When, and if, all law enforcement officials put these thugs behind bars for all of their crimes, I would make the suggestion that their jail cells include a Bible.

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