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Erie County DA'S office holds panel discussions with students to prevent gun violence


Fri, Feb 4th 2022 10:55 am

Speakers shared stories about how their lives have been impacted by gun violence, to deter students from engaging in criminal behavior

√ Prosecutors available upon request to hold presentations for students on criminal justice-related topics impacting youth and schools

Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announced his office – by request – organized two panel discussions on gun violence for students at Research Laboratory High School for Bioinformatics & Life Sciences at the Bennett Community School Campus this week.

The panel discussions are part of the DA’s ongoing community outreach efforts at schools throughout Erie County. The presentations held this week focused on preventing gun violence by bringing speakers with different experiences and backgrounds together to share how their life has been impacted by gun-related crimes, and warn students about the lifelong consequences of engaging in gang activity and other criminal behavior.

The DA’s office was invited to hold the panel discussions following an incident where a student brought an illegal loaded handgun into the school, located inside the Bennett Community School campus, on Dec. 16.

A press release noted, “While the role of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office is primarily reactive in the investigation and prosecution of a case after a crime has occurred, District Attorney Flynn is seeking innovative and proactive ways to prevent gun violence and other crime. Our office has seen an increase in the number of adolescents who have become involved in the criminal justice system or killed due to gun violence.

The DA’s office has collaborated with the following individuals for the panel discussions, each of whom “have a unique perspective on the detrimental effects of gun violence, gang involvement and criminal behavior, in the hope that these individuals could provide an effective and relatable means to educate our youth and prevent further violence”:

√ Chief Aaron Young, Capt. Tommy Champion and Lt. Kelly Craig of the Buffalo Police Department Neighborhood Engagement Team

√ Rashawn Smalls, outreach coordinator for FamilyWorks Buffalo

√ Eric Rawls, creator of the fashion line “I’m Livin B”

√ Darryl Scott, program manager for SNUG

√ Adriana “Adri.V” Viverette, motivational speaker and radio host at 93.7 WBLK

√ Sandy Green, a nonviolence advocate who lost two sons to gun violence

In May 2019, the DA’s office, in collaboration with the Buffalo Police Department, Buffalo Public Schools and Say Yes Buffalo, hosted the first “Community Conversation Regarding Gun Violence” at Bennett Community School campus. Similar to the panel discussions held this week, the program was “open dialogue about the consequences of gun violence and gang activity, while encouraging students to continue with their academic pursuits and other ambitions in an effort to deter them from a criminal lifestyle.”

The press release continued, “Our office has provided similar presentations at other schools throughout Erie County. Prosecutors have visited classrooms to discuss gun violence, cyberbullying, school threats and other criminal justice-related issues that affect our youth and our schools. To date in the 2021-22 school year, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office has provided 14 presentations for students at five different schools with several more presentations scheduled in the coming months.”

Flynn said, “I am committing to making our neighborhoods safe, so we are seeking new, proactive approaches to prevent crime by engaging with people, especially young people, in our community. We are seeing too many kids arrested, injured, killed or simply traumatized as a result of gun violence. I believe that our children are our future. If we can get a message to them at an early age that engaging in criminal behavior has serious, even deadly consequences, I hope we can put an end to this violence. I want to thank the Buffalo Public School District, the Buffalo Police Department as well as our many guest speakers for continuing to partner with my office on these efforts.”

Any school located within Erie County can request a student presentation on a criminal-justice related topic. For more information, visit the community relations page on the DA’s office website: https://www2.erie.gov/da/community-relations-public-information.

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