BUFFALO, N.Y. — A recent increase in gun violence across Erie County has now risen to the level of a public health crisis as community leaders work to make neighborhoods safer.
"So, our mission is to make sure that our youth stop using guns," said Murray Holman, Stop The Violence Coalition chairman.
Holman joined community leaders Tuesday outside the Rath Building in Buffalo to call for an end to gun violence and the increasing number of fatal shootings in Erie County.
What You Need To Know
- Gun violence in Erie County has been deemed public health crisis by community leaders
- Leaders announced the creation of a new task force to tackle the issue
- Advocates are looking to keep at-risk youth off the streets and help them lead more productive lives
Leaders say Erie leads all other counties across the state in violent crimes committed with a firearm.
"The gun does not stop in Buffalo," said Holman. "It goes to Hamburg. It goes to Clarence. It goes out to Cheektowaga. It goes all over."
"The numbers are clear," Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. "We have seen an increase in violence, not just in the recent weeks but over the last year and a half."
To help reduce the number, Poloncarz signed an executive order declaring gun violence a public health crisis, as well as creating a task force aimed at working with law enforcement to decrease gun violence among youth, increase programs to reduce violence, reduce the number of illegal firearms in the county and provide gun violence education.
He also plans to use $530,000 in state funds for additional summer youth and young adult employment opportunities, as well as programs for at-risk youth.
"The impact of gun violence deserves attention from across the community, as well as all government including county governments," said Poloncarz.
"To make sure we mitigate this issue, it is something that is going to have to be done together," said April Baskin, Erie County Legislature chairwoman.
Baskin lost her cousin to gun violence a few months ago and has thrown her support behind the initiative that's going to require more than just funding.
"Declaring this public health crisis is something that is serious," she said. "Something that we are going to tackle. Something that we are going to fund. Something that we are going to prioritize but most importantly, something that we are going to produce positive outcomes from."
With help from those like Holman, working to get youth off the streets and into programs, like job shadowing.
"Enough is enough," Holman said. "I want to see my grandchildren in this city in the next 15 years, and say a great place to live."