The city is taking several approaches – dispute settlement, recreational activities and stepped-up patrols – to try to reduce gun violence.
“We have to ensure the safety of our community and our residents,” Mayor Lovely Warren said at a news conference Oct. 30 at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Hawley Street, blocks away from a recent fatal shooting.
“There is no excuse for using a gun to settle a dispute,” she said. “There is not justification for firing a bullet in anger. Every bullet … can change a family’s world in an instant.”
Through Oct. 29, there have been 220 incidents accounting for 275 victims. Of those, 31 people were killed. The number of fatalities is the most since 2012 and 2013, when 25 people were fatally shot each year, according to data from the Rochester Police Department.
In all of 2019, there were 157 incidents involving 172 victims. Of those, 22 people were killed.
Gun violence is an issue in several upstate cities. Buffalo, Albany, Troy, Schenectady and Syracuse have seen percentage increases higher than Rochester, according to data from the state Gun Involved Violence Elimination project and supplied by the city.
Warren and interim Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott said that effective immediately, staffing for Pathways to Peace will increase and the Roxie Sinkler R-Center at 75 Grover St. will be open from 7 p.m. to midnight on weekends.
The Avenue D R-Center will expand its hours in the near future.
Police officers will increase patrols at violence hotspots and each of the five section captains is responsible for developing a plan that suits the needs of their area. The department also will track the source of guns to close what the mayor said is a pipeline for weapons.
Warren said it was essential that dispute resolution and prevention be at the center of efforts to reduce violence. She said more than 60% of shootings were the result of ongoing disputes. “It’s obvious that we have to step up and stop the petty disputes and arguments that are escalating into violence.”
She said the “revolving door” of repeat offenders and cycle of retaliation when victims leave the hospital or jail has to close. To that end, Pathways to Peace will be available until 3 a.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
“If you are beefing with someone or fighting with someone and need a way out, we’re asking you to call our Pathways to Peace team,” she said. The number is (585) 428-8822.
She said people who need help with a job, housing or education can call City Hall or City Council.
“If we each step up to do our part, our city will be much safer and the violence in our streets will stop,” she said. “We must do this by working together.”
City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot said there’s a need for alternatives and praised the expanded services at the R-centers.
“Alternatives, alternatives, alternatives,” he said. “We have to give individuals in this community alternatives to the block, alternatives to negative activities, alternatives to picking up a gun and using that has a way of handling their disputes and give them positive alternatives to better the quality of life for themselves and their families.”
He said the community needed programs for youth and adults. So far this year, the median age of shooting victims is 25.
As Lightfoot was finishing his remarks, activist Justin Morris walked onto the lot where the news conference was being held and challenged the speakers. He said that residents would never see change unless what he called “the most influential people” were in leadership positions.
Morris challenged Lightfoot and then interrupted the mayor as she tried to speak to one one of his concerns and as she and Herriott answered questions from the media.
Morris said that officials were playing politics and that the city could not “police its way” out of the problem. Warren said it was not about policing but about partnerships.