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U.S. Attorney Keeps Promise to Listen to Residents Affected by Gun Violence

Patti Singer

Antonia Wynter speaks to U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. during a news conference July 7, 2021 about gun violence. Kennedy has scheduled a meeting with residents for July 27. File photo

Neighbors who clamored to be heard during a news conference about gun violence are getting an audience.

The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York is hosting what’s billed as a community conversation at 10 a.m. July 27 at the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center, 161 Chestnut St.

The event comes after U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. held an outdoor news conference July 7 in the Clarissa Street neighborhood where Genuine Ridgeway had been shot and killed less than a month earlier while sitting in her car with her children. Kennedy was announcing a federal task force to reduce gun violence in the city. Residents who heard about the event on news reports or saw it livestreamed showed up.

When Kennedy said the task force had been formed with community input and then was pressed by Minority Reporter to define “community,” several people interrupted to say they’d never been told and hadn’t been asked to participate.

They wanted Kennedy to address root causes — lack of jobs, need to improve education — and not just send in more police and expect residents to share what they know.

In response, Kennedy said he would schedule a meeting with and for residents, and he had a staff member collect names and contact information of people who said they wanted to know about any plans to involve them. About 15 people provided their information.

Antonia Wynter, one of several people who recorded the event, said it that people who live in the neighborhoods affected by violence have to be involved in solutions.

“When you’re not in the situation, when you’re not in these neighborhoods, you’re a little out of touch,” she said at the time. “We want to bring them in touch, bring them in focus and make sure they have a well-rounded understanding of how crimes become prevalent and not just the continuous cycle of arresting and conviction because that will be infinite.”

The conversation is expected to open with a statement from Kennedy and then he is expected to listen to concerns. The meeting is expected to last about 1 ½ hours.

Kennedy had come to Rochester July 7 to announce the Violence Prevention and Elimination Task Force (VIPER), which he called a proactive and cooperative approach that would be sensitive to factors that had eroded community policing.

The task force has federal agencies such as the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration working with the Rochester Police Department and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Kennedy said the task force would run for 60 days and could be extended. He did not give a specific measure of how officials would know it was successful.