CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
Fax number: (716) 551-3051
BUFFALO, NY – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. today announced the results of the first 60 days of the Federal Violence Prevention and Elimination Initiative (VIPER), which aimed to address a dramatic increase in gun violence in the city of Buffalo during the first half of 2021.
VIPER’s initial 60-day period spanned the period July 7 to September 7, 2021. Following the implementation of VIPER, the homicide rate in the City of Buffalo declined by more than 50%. Additionally, in the first four months of 2021, the death toll in Buffalo has increased 100% from the five-year average for those same months. Following the implementation of VIPER in 2021, the number of shooting fatalities in Buffalo is down 6% from the five-year average for those same months.
VIPER has achieved its ultimate goal of saving lives by focusing on four main goals:
1. Enhanced Targeted Enforcement – Using all the tools at our disposal to get all levels of law enforcement to work together to get violent gun offenders off our streets and lock them in jail
where they belong. Fish with a spear, not a net.
2. Improved Federal Prosecutions – Prioritize the federal arrest and prosecution of:
• Prohibited persons in possession of firearms and ammunition;
• Individuals who buy, sell or traffic (or illegally attempt to buy, sell or traffic) firearms; and
• Violent criminals and drug traffickers who illegally possess firearms as part of their illegal activities.
3. Enhanced Cooperation and Use of Intelligence-Based Policing – All firearm arrests in Buffalo have undergone real-time daily review by state and federal prosecutors.
• However, this aggressive reactive process has been accompanied by proactive collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to decide who poses the greatest risk to public safety in our community.
• Additionally, all levels of law enforcement in and around Buffalo, led by the USMS Fugitive Task Force, have been extremely proactive in apprehending fugitives from justice who had active arrest warrants for gun crimes or violent crimes.
4. Increased Community Engagement – As noted at the start of the VIPER training announcement, the increase in violence experienced over the past 18 months or so has coincided with the deterioration of police-community relations. All partners have worked hard over the past 60 days through increased community policing and engagement efforts, to help improve police-community relations.
During VIPER, 144 arrests with firearms were made, 44 are awaiting federal prosecution, while 96 are awaiting state prosecutions. The VIPER Task Force also seized 122 firearms, removing them from the hands of those who allegedly commit acts of violence.
“Just days before VIPER began on July 5, Shaquelle Walker Jr., a three-year-old boy was shot dead in Buffalo and later died of his injuries,” US Attorney Kennedy noted. “His nickname was Quell, and one of the meanings of that word is ‘to end’. In honor of the three-year-old, all levels of federal, state and local law enforcement in this district have joined forces, through VIPER, in pursuit of our common goal of beginning to crack down on violence in this area. Buffalo. These efforts have worked and produced some pretty impressive results. But we still have work to do, and for that reason, I’m announcing today that the VIPER initiative here in Buffalo will be extended and continued until the end of October. This means that those of us who enforce the law will continue our proactive efforts to keep violent criminals off our streets. Above all, and as part of our efforts, I also call on all members of our community not only to continue, but to expand their support and participation in our efforts. Together we have made great strides in the past 60 days as violent criminals begin to realize that they will be held accountable and that their adversary is not just the police, but all men. , law-abiding women and children. in our community.
“The VIPER task force was a collaborative response to the increase in gun violence affecting communities in western New York State. I predicted there would be a further increase in shootings as more incidents usually occur during the summer months. I believe this multi-agency initiative, along with our efforts to re-engage and improve relationships with our community, has had a positive impact as the number of shootings has declined in the City of Buffalo during this period. The results of this working group show our commitment to prevent further violence by removing illegal guns and drugs from our streets. I would like to thank the Office of the United States Attorney and our local, state and federal law enforcement partners for their hard work over the past two months and their continued dedication to keeping our neighborhoods safe, ”the prosecutor said. from Erie County, John Flynn.
“Over the past year, violent gun crimes in Buffalo have increased dramatically and the effects have been diverse, dangerous and far-reaching,” said Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI field office. in Buffalo. “Families, friends and neighbors have witnessed the work of callous criminals who pull the trigger for a living and are not disturbed by the fragments left behind – the shattered remains of lives that could have been left behind. Relentless crime problem never slows down and demands that we fight it together. Since the beginning of the VIPER initiative, it has been our collective responsibility and our goal to save lives. And over the past eight weeks, we have saved lives. Statistics reflect our successes. Our strategy is defined by a valued team approach and includes a sustained, systematic and coordinated push between all law enforcement agencies. Today we remain engaged . We will continue this fight against violence. We stand in solidarity with the community and promise to continue our efforts to make Buffalo a safer place for Buffalo to live in. ent live, work and enjoy a life not bound by crime.
“Gun violence is an epidemic that wreaks physical and emotional havoc on the streets of our communities across the country,” said John B. DeVito, ATF Special Agent, New York Field Division. “But as this VIPER effort demonstrates, when all levels of law enforcement come together and work collaboratively, sharing information and resources, guns and criminals committing terrible acts of violence with them can be removed from our neighborhoods, significantly improving the quality of life for the citizens living in these neighborhoods.
“As stated in the inception of this initiative, HSI and our law enforcement partners are committed to addressing gun violence in western New York State,” said Matthew Scarpino, Officer Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Special. “While the efforts so far are remarkable, we remain cognizant of the work that remains to be done.”
“The job of law enforcement is to improve public health and safety and save lives,” said DEA special agent Ray Donovan. “The VIPER task force has proven to be effective in getting guns off the streets, which protects our communities. I commend the members of the Task Force and United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of New York for their diligent efforts.
“These results demonstrate how law enforcement agencies are working to resolve community issues,” Sheriff Timothy B. Howard said. “The agencies have focused on removing criminals and guns illegally possessed from the streets. Our collected efforts are reflected in the numbers, and people in our community should feel good about the work of the VIPER Working Group. This effort has given momentum and together we can continue to eliminate criminals and illegally held guns. “
Members of the Federal Working Group on the Prevention and Eradication of Violence include the United States Attorney’s Office, under the leadership of United States Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr .; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John B. Devito, New York Field Division; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Buffalo Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Stephen Belongia; the United States Marshal’s Service for the Western District of New York, under the direction of Field Marshal Charles Salina; Homeland Security Investigations, led by Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kelly; and the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan, New York Field Division.
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