By Miguel Lopez
Rochester is a city that is no stranger to violence, with the city reaching an all-time high in homicides with a month left in the year. Rochester is not the only city where violent gun crime is up, however, as statistics show that gun violence is up across the country. The Gun Violence Archive, a national gun violence website that tracks shootings yearly, has already reported over 39,000-gun related deaths this year, which is expected to top last year’s all time high of around 43,000.
So far, the number of 2021 homicides in the city of Rochester has risen to a total of 75. Rochester alone has one the highest murders per capita in the entire country, as civilians look to local leaders to redirect resources to the areas that need them the most.
Congressman Joe Morelle held a press conference at the Boys & Girls Club of Rochester on Genesee Street, where one of Rochester’s largest shootings took place. Morelle looks to back the $5 Billion federal investment in Community Violence Intervention programs that he hopes will be passed in the House of Representatives this week. Community leaders have been struggling for answers, with the homicide total in Rochester reaching a new high every year since 2019.
“This is really about finding folks who are at risk, whether it’s housing, whether it’s food, no matter what the challenge is, making sure the community can meet that challenge head on,” Morelle said.
“We have a responsibility to utilize the many tools and resources we have available in our community to catch these issues upstream and prevent our youth from ever entering the dark and endless cycle of violence.”
Mayor Lovely A. Warren declared a state of emergency in response to the recent spike in violence, and the board chair of the Boys & Girls Club Naomi Silver says gun violence has become a public epidemic with a fatality rate of 12.3% in Rochester.
“This rate is higher than the general rate of all causes of death in the entire United States,” Silver said. “That’s startling. We have work to do. We need this partnership. We need this $5 billion investment, which is small, considering that our children are at risk right now.”
Mayor-Elect Malik Evans spoke on the necessity for community violence programs, and his own encounters with violence while living in Rochester. “When I was 17 someone was shot and killed outside my house, and still stays with me today. We have lost so much talent, the future lawyers, doctors, businesspeople who are now sitting in mount hope cemetery, or in correctional facilities.”
Evans said it is common sense for leaders to be able to support community violence intervention programs.
“The $5 billion dollar price tag is absolutely appropriate, and it is necessary for us to look at this as not an expense,” he said. “…but rather an investment in someone’s life that might be able to get them to change the trajectory of their life before they pick up a gun, or before they become a victim of violence.”