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Buffalo Spotlight to Better Communities

Similar to other large urban cities, the City of Buffalo's law enforcement agencies strain to respond to the criminal and drug activity in the community. This activity is exacerbated by the more than 9,500 vacant properties that exist in the city, many of which are used for criminal activity including, but not limited to, assaults, rape and gang violence. Residents of public housing, protected by Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority's (BMHA) Public Safety Department, have feared for the neighborhoods surrounding the developments. And, the BMHA Housing Police experience the strain as well as a growing lack of trust between the residents, themselves and local law enforcement.

The City has responded by developing BUFFALO SPOTLIGHT, a program designed to mirror the National Ten Point Leadership Foundation's successful model. The program's objective is to enhance relationships between faith-based institutions, law enforcement agencies, business leaders, municipal authorities and the "villages of our city" to create economic opportunities for families.

BUFFALO SPOTLIGHT selected the first designated village known as the Kensington Project, in the northeastern section of Buffalo. Kenfield-Langfield public housing developments, Kensington High School and "E" District Police Precinct are located in this village. This comprehensive partnership has resulted in a Faith-Based and Criminal Justice Plan consisting of a four-pronged, weed and seed approach designed:

To WEED out crime by,
  • Including local clergy in the regularly scheduled home visits of the Erie County Probation Department. Clergy and law enforcement accompany assigned probation officers on evening home visitation of youthful offenders.
  • Using street workers, consisting of law enforcement, clergy, and probation personnel, to resemble foot patrols that operate between 7:30 and 11:30 pm.
To SEED trust in the community by,
  • Fostering relationships between members of law enforcement, clergy, probation, and residents by using community gatherings such as, community dinners, basketball games, public meetings, and any other activities that help forge a sense of community. The purpose is to eliminate an "us versus them" environment and develop a more accepting atmosphere.
  • Training law enforcement to go into the community and empower residents to become more involved in community policing and crime prevention. A Junior Officers program will train citizens and local youth in community policing methods.

For example, the Police-Assisted Clergy Training program held a series of eight, three-hour evening programs and police car ride-a-longs for 25 clergy with the BMHA Public Safety and local law enforcement. As a result, 25 clergy volunteer to ride-a-long with BMHA Housing Police during patrols to assist them in domestic and youth situations.

The partnership is also using several other holistic approaches to deal with the adverse issues affecting minority youth, such as: Christian Employment Training; Male and Female Mentorship Programs; Educational Tutorial Programs; Public Speaking and Discipline Programs; AIDS/STD Awareness Programs, Gender Development, and the Police-Assisted Clergy Training (PACT) program.

The presence of faith-based partners in day-to-day situations seeks to develop more trusting and caring relationships between those who serve and those they serve. Local programs, often perceived to be run by large bureaucratic, uncaring institutions, now demonstrate humanity to residents, and build respect for the role of law enforcement and for neighborhood leaders. Youth-at-risk are now being directed to vital, more comprehensive programs needed to become participating, respectful citizens.


Content Archived: March 07, 2011

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U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
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Telephone: (202) 708-1112 TTY: (202) 708-1455