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Buffalo's New Police Chief Aims to Improve Trust, Reduce Shootings

Joseph Gramaglia, Buffalo's new police commissioner, has embarked on a new strategy for reducing gun violence, the Buffalo News reports. Gramaglia, who has been with the department since 1996, has supervised every detective unit and most recently served as one of two deputy police commissioners before Mayor Byron Brown's selected him to head the department in March. In Buffalo, shootings are down 34 percent compared to the same period last year, but that is still elevated relative to the years before the pandemic. In response, Gramaglia has rolled out several strategies in attempts to wipe out the spikes in gun violence from the COVID-19 era. He said, "We want to be very focused on those carrying guns and the trigger-pullers. We don't want to have encounters with people who are just trying to live in neighborhoods that are plagued with gun violence." This outlook is evident in Buffalo's new strategy for raids of houses for illegal guns and drugs. In the last few weeks, Buffalo has worked with the Erie County Sheriff's Office, state police, and the FBI to execute search warrants on homes where illegal activity is suspected. After a raid, Buffalo police sends in community police officers from its Neighborhood Engagement Team. They answer questions about the searches and listen to what community members have to say. By explaining what operations seek to accomplish, Gramaglia hopes better relationships will be forged. "We should explain to people why we did what we did, or why we didn't do something," Gramaglia said.


Another strategy Gramaglia will employ is hot spot policing, but he says Buffalo will not do so by blanketing an entire neighborhood. Instead, officers will focus their efforts on small areas, down to the block. "We've put the entire city into 500-foot-by-500-foot grids. We have an overlay grid over the city and and then look at them by individual districts. We are looking at shootings and shots fired and other gun crimes within those grids. We're looking at 90-day trends and we're looking to see where those hot spots are developing," Gramaglia said. When the hot spot trends emerge, police will begin to send officers to those locations. "We're telling them to go to these grids for 10 to 15 minutes per hour. Park, put your flashers on, get out of the car and start networking and engaging," Gramaglia said. "You make your presence known. ... If there's a gang house or if there's a drug house, we're parked in front of that and we just disrupted their activities for those 10 to 15 minutes we're going to be there. Then we're going to come back later." Gramaglia claims that his plan to deter shootings this way also applies to other kinds of crime, including robberies. "We recently had some robberies in a district and the chief took the initiative and started doing directed patrols. We knew who it was. There was a couple of juveniles that were doing robberies a few days in a row and we got over there, and you know, the robberies have stopped," Gramaglia said.

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