BUFFALO, N.Y. — United States Attorney for Western New York James P. Kennedy, Jr. was in Buffalo Thursday to announce a new task force aimed to combat rising gun violence in the area.
VIPER (The Federal Violence Prevention and Elimination Response) task force is made up of federal law enforcement officers, analysts and prosecutors who will work with their state, county and local counterparts to remove violent gun offenders from the streets.
“All citizens, especially those living in our most violent neighborhoods, are entitled to feel safe in their own home and neighborhoods,” said U.S. Attorney Kennedy.
Buffalo has seen 166 shootings in the first seven months of this year, compared to 109 shootings in all of 2020, according to Buffalo Police Department Captain Jeff Rinaldo.
Victims of these shootings range in age, with one of the youngest this year being a 3-year-old boy.
“Law-abiding citizens should not be forced to live behind bars, while criminals are given freedom to roam the streets,” said Kennedy. “The Federal Violence Prevention and Elimination Response task force is designed to remove the worst of the worst who hold our streets and neighborhoods hostage.”
VIPER will utilize the ATF’s gun crime intelligence network, the United States Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force and Monroe Crime Analysis Center to analyze recent shootings, identify individuals who pose the greatest risk to the public and disrupt violence before it happens.
Some charges will be escalated to federal charges in an effort to keep violent gun offenders behind bars until their court dates.
The task force also aims to repair community relations and rebuild trust with residents. Agencies emphasize the need for community cooperation in these efforts.
“The time has come for everyone to stop thinking of ‘us versus them’ as the community versus the cops, and start thinking of ‘us versus them’ as the community and cops versus violent offenders,” said Kennedy.
VIPER comes just days after Governor Andrew Cuomo declared gun violence a Disaster Emergency for the state.