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Mayor-Elect Evans: How To Get Ahead of Violence Before it Happens?

Patti Singer

Mayor-elect Malik Evans at his Nov. 3, 2021 news conference, during which he walked about a holistic approach to quelling violence in Rochester. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

At around 8:45 p.m. Nov. 2, a 15-year-old arrived at Rochester General Hospital after being shot in the upper body while on Peckham Street.

Jamere Wade was rushed into surgery, but he died from his injuries. The teen may have succumbed around the time Mayor-elect Malik Evans was giving his victory speech.

The next morning, Evans held his first news conference as Rochester’s next mayor, and the first question was how would he address the violence that has claimed 65 victims so far this year, with an additional three the Rochester Police Department is reporting from previous years.

“People need to feel safe in their community,” he said, adding that the city will need to work with the county and even the state on solutions. “We have to work together on it, but it just can’t be idle chatter. We have to sit down and collaborate in order to make it happen.”

Pressed on what that would look like, Evans said a plan would be developed but he talked about the youth opportunity agenda that was part of his campaign.

“We said that if young people are given the opportunities, they are less likely to get involved in violence,” he said. “Think about if a young person had so much to do that they wouldn’t think about picking up that gun or whatever it is that they’re doing as it relates to violence.”

Violence also has been an issue in the Rochester City School District, which recently held a forum on potential remedies.

U.S. Rep. Joe Morelle scheduled a news conference Nov. 9 at the Boys and Girls Club with local government officials and others to announce his plans.

But as mayor, Evans likely will face the most scrutiny over action to reduce violence. He will have to name a police chief and said at the news conference he wanted a national search, for which City Council will have to approve funds.

While he talked at his Nov. 9 news conference about a holistic approach that includes mental health as well as law enforcement, he also spoke like a doctor in an emergency room.

“Our triage moment is taking care of the bloodshed and put a stop to it immediately because it’s unacceptable.”

Evans also questioned community reaction.

“We have to see outrage in our community,” he said, recalling the response over a 16-year-old who had been killed. He said the media covered that incident only initially. “Where’s the outrage? We have to understand that we cannot tolerate that. We should have sustained protests in the street when these folks are being murdered.”

Evans then was asked what should people be protesting. He was reminded that nearly 30 years ago, another teen died on Election Night. The question was what would Evans do differently.

“You do it like a scalpel and not a hammer,” Evans said. “Rochester’s not that big. We can identify the individuals that have a propensity … for violence. The issue is how do we zero in on it? … How do we get ahead of it before it happens? In summer months, we have these large gatherings. How do you disrupt those before they happen?”

Evans talked about the shooting in the crowded parking lot of the Walmart on Hudson Avenue and how no one seemed to see anything.

“Come on,” he said. “How do we rebuild those relationships with the police so people feel comfortable enough to come forward? How do you make sure that young people have the opportunities to know that they don’t need to be on the streets, hanging out, where they can be at a basketball game or at a job training program, where they will be given a job or some type of tool, so they won’t go towards that violence.”

Evans also talked about a program to interrupt the flow of illegal guns. But he came back to the theme of working with other entities on topics such as mental health and economic opportunity.

“It’s a multi-pronged approach,” he said. “As I tell people, don’t look for just one answer. You’re not going to get just one answer because it’s not just one thing. If it was just one thing, we would have solved this violence issue a long time ago, it is multiple things that we have to do.”

In the days after his news conference, two people were shot and killed at 35 Chestnut St. In another incident, five teens were wounded by gunfire. In a statement released Nov. 11, Evans cited data that showed 60 people younger than 18 had been shot this year.

“Violence in our city has become an all too common occurrence,” he wrote in the statement. “I want to reiterate that we as a community must not let violence become normalized. We are in a state of emergency, and we must have a ‘whole community’ approach to solve this issue. 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. … I look forward to engaging with our community as we seek transformative, systemic change.”