State of emergency in Rochester declared

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Mayor Lovely Warren has declared a state of emergency in the city of Rochester with a goal to remove violent offenders from neighborhoods.

In a joint statement Friday with City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot, who chairs the public safety, recreation and human services committee, Warren said the Rochester Police Department has been working with local, state and federal law enforcement partners to expand efforts to target individuals who are committing violence. 

“We have also been working with the city law department to determine what emergency powers we can exercise,” the statement reads.

The offenders have already committed crimes, are wanted for additional crimes and are most likely to be perpetrating the current spate of violence, officials said. Gov. Kathy Hochul has agreed to deploy additional state troopers to Rochester to actively expand this effort, building on work led by the U.S. Marshals, RPD and the Monroe County sheriff that began in the summer. State and county partners will also provide resources for mental health and violence disruption services. 

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said the county has provided up to 700 hours a week of sheriff’s patrols in the city, mental health and addiction services and increased violence prevention training for juveniles and victim support services, since the COVID-19 outbreak and the uptick in violence.

“Families deserve better. Far too many are grieving the loss of a loved one from this senseless violence, while others are losing their loved ones to the legal system or to retaliation. This has to stop,” Bello said in a statement. “Numerous entities and community groups have been working tirelessly and providing resources in an effort to make an impact on this increase in violence. But for these efforts to be successful, they must be part of a larger effort – a citywide plan with clear objectives and increased resources for enforcement.”

Mayor-elect Malik Evans, who issued a statement yesterday, stressed that the community cannot let violence become normal. 

“We are in a state of emergency, and we must have a ‘whole community’ approach to solve this issue,” Evans said. “As part of my transition, we will be pulling together all who are willing to help tackle the scourge of violence in our community. The government cannot and will not solve this problem alone.”

Rochester is experiencing its deadliest year of violence—marking 71 homicides so far. This week alone, two people were killed on Chestnut Street and one was killed outside the downtown transit center. Many of these victims were under the age of 18.

“We must actively attack this crisis from all angles,” the statement by Warren and Lightfoot said. “We also need our residents to step up and protect their neighborhoods as well. If you see something, say something, call 911 and report it. None of us can tolerate what is happening. The costs are, and have been, too great.”

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

One thought on “State of emergency in Rochester declared

  1. As far as stemming today’s violence, call me cynical, but I don’t see a way to do it quickly.
    Like many urban areas steeped in poverty, Rochester seems to have cycles of more and less violent periods over time. What the police do or don’t do proactively generally does not stop young gang members from settling disputes through violence.
    What does work is using federal mandatory minimum sentencing for illegal gun violence to keep convicted individuals from the streets for extended periods? Interagency warrant task forces also have the same effect.
    “Feel good” programs like gun buy-backs or intervention training, etc., have no way to document their success objectively.
    Some portion of our current crisis may be a result of bail reform. That said, legally, bail intends to ensure a person’s appearance at trial, not keeping them from re-offending. Our state legislators need to look at other available tools that would keep violent offenders off our streets. The police and the DA’s office could make a stronger case for remand at arraignment. Legislators could give judges more flexibility to remand rather than set bail if a suspect is proven to be dangerous.
    No doubt, the pandemic interrupted many social norms.
    The anti-police movement may have had the unintended consequence of giving criminals the perception that all bets are off because demoralized police under greater scrutiny may leave the community easier to terrorize. Everyone agrees that people in crisis need more support than police can or should provide, so how about our governing bodies getting to work to quickly provide those resources?
    There seems to be mostly youth on youth killings, which, frankly, the broader community isn’t as upset about because it has no direct impact on them. The “see something say something” mantra has as its’ premise that the observer saying something will be directly affected if they stay silent, which is rarely true, so they don’t have a compelling personal reason to get involved.
    If the guardians of these teens killing and being killed could get involved, they would. Their kids would most likely not be on the street in the first place if they had a stable and nurturing home life.
    Offenders that are 18 today were entering school in 2009 and were in 6th grade in 2015. A study should be done to see what was happening in Rochester around that time, both in government and not-for-profit programs. Who was Mayor, and who was on City Council? How were the schools being managed? What strategies and tactics were being used? Because clearly, what was being done then did little to prevent today’s teens from becoming killers and victims. An objective, deep-dive needs to be done to assess every aspect of these violent kids’ development if we want to keep it from happening in the future.
    We need NEW and CREATIVE efforts to reach kids as they enter grammar school to keep them from giving in to violent tendencies. Our elected officials and public servants must make a concerted effort to form partnerships with the guardians of school-age children. I believe that too many community entities still suffer from a silo mentality, which has to stop.
    Too much is made of what impact the Police Accountability Board has. Most cops are trying to do good work. Most cops silently wish the one or two bad cops out there should go away. Cops want better guidance and support to do their challenging jobs effectively. And I’m sure everyone who lives in the heart of the community where these killings are taking place wants MORE and more effective police.
    I submit that tragically there will be many more killings in Rochester before years end. It is almost inevitable. Cops can’t be everywhere at once. And the die is cast for the young people who believe killing someone else is the only way to handle a dispute. We need to focus on the upcoming generation to ensure that in 14 years, we don’t have to deal with the same crisis again.

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