Community skeptical of federal task force over Rochester crime spike


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The announcement of the new VIPER federal task force was met with skepticism by members of the public who got vocal at the briefing over not having more of a seat at the table to help achieve its goal.  

When introducing the VIPER task force U.S Attorney James Kennedy Jr. ended up interacting more with community members who showed up than reporters. Those community members pointing out areas where they think law enforcement is falling short. 

Those who call Rochester home put their frustration out there for authorities at all levels to hear after they say they didn’t get enough notice about this partnership between city and county law enforcement with federal agents.  

“We want proactivity and you need the right people at the table who’s being affected by this,” one woman expressed in the crowd. “To impact real change. Nobody up there represents us we’re tired of all the hearsay.” 

The timeframe for this operation didn’t sit well with some in this group believing it doesn’t go far enough to get ahead of criminals and permanently solve the surge in gun violence. Homeland Security went deeper explaining this is only the beginning. 

“The 60-day mark is a benchmark,” Special Agent Kevin Kelly with Homeland Security explained. “It doesn’t mean it’s the end state it just means you have to have when you start something a reasonable expectation for success and expectation manpower assets and everything.” 

Others like Wayman Daniels who’s lived in Rochester his whole life, say the division of the community during the press conference struck him. The violence he says is out of control and the VIPER program needs a chance to work.  

“The problem is that the community is still fighting against what’s needed in the community,” Daniels said. “More police, more legislative laws, etc. It’s a 60-day program. What did we have prior to that? Nothing.” 

Going forward Rochester Police Department, Monroe County Sheriff Office, ATF, and the FBI all want the public to know they’re taking off their different agency labels and putting on the same uniform to save Rochester from plummeting into more violent crime. They called the exchange with these people today healthy and progressive.  

All federal agencies added it’s nothing new to have their teams in the City of Rochester, a place they also call home. But will have more presence in the streets interacting with more people at non-federal cases. 

Rochester has already seen 38 homicides this year as of Wednesday, and is on pace for an all-time record of more than 70, Kennedy said. In 2019, the city saw 32 homicides, up from 28 in each year of 2017 and 2018. In 2020, that number jumped to 52, an increase of 150% over three years.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a disaster emergency on gun violence on for the state of New York Tuesday, a first-of-its-kind disaster emergency for the country.

Across the nation, there has been an increase in violent crimes. The 72 largest cities have already seen a 17% increase in crime this year compared to last.

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