BUFFALO - With law enforcement in Buffalo struggling to solve gang-related homicides, we are now learning that the city's gang population is higher than previously disclosed.
The local FBI office runs the Safe Street Task Force. It works cooperatively with local agencies include the Buffalo Police Department. 2 On-Your-Side has learned that as of December, the task force has identified some 55 street gang in Buffalo with total gang members around 700.
These are starkly larger numbers than ones reported two years ago when the agency released figures of 30 gang and 300 members. An FBI spokeswoman attributes the increased numbers to better intelligence and identifications methods, not due to actual growth of gang ranks.
"You want to get somebody out of a gang? You want to take a gun out of someone’s hand? We need to get them a job that pays well,” says activist Duncan Kirkwood.
Kirkwood grew up in the Central Park section of the city. After getting a college degree, he has returned to Buffalo to help re-build the East Side of the city where he grew up. He says young people turn to gangs because they feel there are few other options to get ahead.
Kirkwood says "(Gang members are) putting money in your hand immediately. They’re giving you ways you can all of a sudden get the nice clothes and feel normal, feel like a regular person.”
Kirkwood believes the FBI gang figures for Buffalo may be over-stated. But a law enforcement source says Buffalo's gang population may be larger than the newly released number.
The source points out teens are a "tremendous source of violence" in the region. And the FBI does not include minors when counting city gang members.