Shootings in Rochester this year have tapered off slightly from a high watermark set in 2021.
In the first nine months of the year, there have been 237 shooting and homicide incidents recorded by the Rochester Police Department. That figure is less than the 245, 324, and 289 total incidents recorded across that same time period in each of the last three years. Over the last two decades, the average was 145 incidents.
Still, the persistent high level of violence led the Roc Against Gun Violence Coalition to release its 2023 Solutions Action Plan in October. The plan aims to combat gun violence through a series of short-term practical measures and long-term actionable goals.
“With this plan, I’m ensuring that this work continues long after I’ve left my seat on the City Council dais,” says Councilmember Willie Lightfoot, who serves as chairman of RAGVC.
Lightfoot notes his enthusiasm for this plan is based on the success of prior action plans from the committee. He cites the Crisis Intervention Team, Trauma Response Unit and Homicide Response Team as “successful human resource work” to come from a 2018 action plan.
“But, as I look back at the work we’ve done over the past five years, I realize that we will never solve this problem alone,” says Lightfoot.
The latest action plan outlines 12 solutions: four short-term (six months to 1 year), six mid-term (one to two years), and two long-term (three years or more). Areas for improvement include youth development, mental health services and accountability.
Especially important to RAGVC is the ability to advocate for greater cooperation with local, state and federal agencies, including using procurements to secure public funding. In addition, the committee will continue collaborating with anti-gun violence organization Brady. Most recently, Brady conducted research for a gun trace report of over 6,000 firearms used over the course of three years.
“We learned there are no legal gun dealers in the city of Rochester, and that most of the guns used in crimes in our city come from other places in Monroe County,” Lightfoot says.
While specific information was redacted in the report, it still showed that the majority of top sellers came from Monroe County. Further, firearms constructed from a kit, known as “ghost guns,” have seen a recent surge in use.
According to the action plan, each solution will be “constantly re-evaluated” along a criteria of relevance, coherence, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability. RAGVC also recommends that its work be eventually overseen by the Public Safety Committee “so that it is permanently embedded in the work of our City Council,” the plan reads.
Beside the efforts of RAGVC, Rochester Mayor Malik Evans has continued to reaffirm the gun state of emergency originally declared in 2022. He has also focused on youth crime with summer employment programs and the “Choose Wisdom” outreach campaign.
Victims of shooting incidents are most likely to be Black men between the ages of 25 and 44. The younger 15- to 24-year-old age group made up 59 percent of all victims in 2000. However, over the past two decades, it has steadily declined to 34 percent in 2022.
Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and data journalist. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].