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Let's Fight Crime Everywhere

I was doing a bit of reading on social media over the course of the past few days (and in the wake of the recent shooting on Elmwood) and I was very interested in voicing what might be misconstrued as an unpopular opinion on crime in the city of Buffalo. As a brief background: I’ve lived in the City my entire life. I used to live in the East Lovejoy district on the edge of the East Side of Buffalo. About five years ago I moved to the North Park area of North Buffalo, and currently during the academic year I reside on the University at Buffalo’s North Campus in Amherst. I attended City Honors School from Grade 5 through 12 and through that have met and befriended many students who live in all areas of Buffalo.

As an avid follower of news, my Twitter feed is constantly abuzz with local, national, and international updates. While Buffalo as a whole doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for safety, I began to see an upward trend in shooting and murder cases. With just about 60 homicides in the City this year, 2014 had the highest murder rate since 2006. This doesn’t include countless other shootings, assaults, rapes, and the like that have plagued Buffalo in the past 12 months. Nearly 20 percent of the 60 homicides alone occurred in the last month of 2014. It began to seem as though Buffalo was experiencing one killing after another with perhaps no signs of the violence stopping anytime soon. This looks very poorly on Buffalo as we try to reshape our image from a broken, crime-ridden, rust belt town to a hip, robust, developing metropolis. But this is not new information. Crime has been an issue in Buffalo for the past several decades and while it has certainly been on the decline, Buffalo is, year after year, considered within the ten most dangerous urban areas in the country. Residents, business owners, and politicians alike are always trying to find solutions to the issue of growing (or, perhaps equally as bad, constant) crime rates. However, the resolution of crime roots not just from law enforcement or City Hall politicians but also from the neighborhood residents in which crime occurs, and this has proven incredibly problematic in fully addressing the crime issue.

The recent disruption on Elmwood and Hodge on the night of Saturday, January 3rd is the second time this year that crime influx in the City’s prestigious Elmwood Village has created community uproar and heavy response. The same swift action occurred in July when a series of rapes plagued the area. Now, in no way am I saying that the Elmwood Villages’ response to crime is negative, unwanted, or unneeded. What I am saying, however, is that people often wait until an issue directly affects them before they decide to take a stand. Rapes don’t just occur in the Elmwood Village but they were very highly publicized and acted upon when they did. On top of that, when crime occurs in more desirable neighborhoods, it’s more likely to get a response and therefore more likely to get increased coverage by local news agencies. Within less than two days, the City of Buffalo closed the Habibi Sheesha Hookah Lounge, an establishment that police and witnesses believe had something to do with the incident at hand. That’s a nearly unprecedented response to an incident that didn’t result in any injury or death. This proves the impact that community members and community organizations can have on the intensity of an investigation and crime control as a whole. Elmwood residents are calling for a higher police presence, which they will undoubtedly receive. While this does note the positivity of community response, it does reflect upon the negativity of individualistic societies in which, as mentioned before, residents only seem to care if crime affects them or their cherished, “safe” neighborhoods.

Safe, vibrant neighborhoods are necessary for cities to flourish, but no area deserves to be plagued by crime. The solution to crime doesn’t just fall upon the police force or politicians. Rather, it has to do with community response, and some communities aren’t quite developed enough to create the same kind of uproar as the Elmwood Village Association has in this latest incident. Strong neighborhood associations need to be proactive in their quest for crime control. If you look at crime maps, you can see that there have been homicides and cases of violent crime within a mile both east and west of the Elmwood strip. It’s simply absurd to think that violent crime so close by magically stops when one crosses into the Village; high spikes in crime in certain neighborhoods brings about an inevitable increase in crime in surrounding areas, no matter how safe they are perceived. The Elmwood Village Association as well as EV residents should be highly commended for their quick response to this very important issue. However, this should open eyes that an even bigger community response is necessary to not only address instances of violent crime in high-demand areas but to address and suppress crime in areas that often don’t get the opportunity to speak up for themselves. Buffalo is known as the “City of Good Neighbors” and while this is true, there is often a disconnect as we alienate and align ourselves according to the neighborhood in which we reside. If real change is to happen, citizens must stand up to crime throughout the city, not just when and where it affects them. We have the potential; we just need the execution.

Anna Blatto, Amherst

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