ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — With less than a month until she leaves office, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren declared a state of emergency Friday due to rising violence in the city.
“We witnessing senseless actions of violence in front of us daily,” said Rochester police investigator Frank Camp during a Friday press conference. “Like many other police departments, we re fortunate to be able to address these issues, not alone, but with the strength of our partner law enforcement agencies.”
“We hit a grim milestone in the city,” said interim Rochester Police Chief David Smith. “71 murders, 71 members of our community who will not be with us as we enter what should be a joyous holiday season. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters — their absences will leave holes in our community and it weighs heavily on our hearts.”
Chief Smith said the department currently has a 44.6% clearance rate on these crimes this year, down from past years, which he says is due to the increased caseload Rochester police are navigating in 2021.
“Prevention cannot be measured, but we have worked with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and New York State Police to provide high visibility patrols in the areas where shots fired have been occurring,” Smith said.
The police chief said, to date, 247 local violent offenders have been arrested this year, 134 of which for firearm relate offenses. Of those arrests, 65 are facing federal prosecution and 61 face state prosecution.
The police chief says law enforcement will continue to target known offenders and recommend them for federal prosecution, which began earlier this year in Rochester under the VIPER Task Force.
“Working with our federal partners, we’ve taken 102 firearms off the street, as of September 2021,” Smith said.
According to the chief, the mayor has reached out to the governor for additional state assistance in the fight against local violence as the police chief said the RPD resources, and the Persons In Crisis Team, have been stretched thin — a request that Gov. Kathy Hochul approved, according to Smith
The police chief said that law enforcement needs the community’s help to address the issue of violence.
“We need help from the community,” Smith said. “We ask that people in the community call us, or submit a tip to Crimestoppers. We need everybody to help make the city a better place.”
The police chief said residents can build up stronger relationships with their neighbors to help the issue.
“We have lost a lot of the relationships that made our community strong,” Smith said. “Go next door, go across the street, offer a hand to your neighbor, introduce ourselves. How many of us really know our neighbors?”
While some law enforcement officials have pointed to bail reform laws in the past as a potential cause to the recent rise in violence, Chief Smith said that’s not the case. He said bail reform was needed, but added that it’s not perfect and could be altered over time to better fit society’s needs.
Mayor Warren, who was not present at Friday’s law enforcement press conference, released a joint statement Friday with City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot, on the state of emergency declaration.
“Our Rochester Police Department has been working with its local, state and federal law enforcement partners to expand their efforts to target those individuals committing violence in our city. We have also been working with the City law department to determine what emergency powers we can exercise. Today, Mayor Warren is declaring a local state of emergency to ensure additional resources are brought to bear with one clear goal: removing violent offenders from our neighborhoods.
These individuals have already committed crimes, are wanted for additional crimes and are most likely to be perpetrating the violence we’re seeing today. This action ensures we are doing all we can to remove these violent criminals from our streets.
We are grateful to Governor Hochul for agreeing to provide additional State Troopers to Rochester to actively expand this effort. This builds upon the work led by the U.S. Marshalls, RPD and the Monroe County Sheriff that began this summer.
In addition, we have asked our State and County partners for further resources to provide more mental health and violence disruption services. We must actively attack this crisis from all angles.
We also need our residents to step up and protect their neighborhoods as well. If you see something, say something, call 911 and report it. None of us can tolerate what is happening. The costs are, and have been, too great.
Lastly, as people of faith, we call upon God to watch over Rochester, bring peace to its people and give us all the strength to do what is necessary. We also pray for all those we have lost and their families. May God provide them with solace and grace.“
Back in July, former Governor Andrew Cuomo, declared a statewide disaster emergency on gun violence in a first-of-its-kind in the U.S.
“We have to get illegal guns off the streets and we have to get illegal guns out of the hands of people and we have to rebuild the community,” Cuomo said. “Treat it like a public health issue. We know how to deal with an epidemic and what we want to say is, we want to treat gun violence like we did with COVID.”
Watch the full press briefing
State of emergency proclamation
According to Rochester police, the homicides per year stats in the city date back to 1970. Officials say record keeping in the past, and before then, wasn’t as reliable as it is in the present.
The homicides per year in Rochester since 1970, according to police, are as follows:
|2021||71 (to date)|
Statement from Monroe County Executive Adam Bello
The City of Rochester is in crisis and has been for months. Gun violence is plaguing our streets, with the overwhelming number of the record 71 homicides in the city stemming from the presence of illegal guns. Families deserve better. Far too many are grieving the loss of a loved one from this senseless violence, while others are losing their loved ones to the legal system or to retaliation. This has to stop. Numerous entities and community groups have been working tirelessly and providing resources in an effort to make an impact on this increase in violence. But for these efforts to be successful, they must be part of a larger effort – a citywide plan with clear objectives and increased resources for enforcement. Since the outbreak of COVID 19 and the steep increase in violence in the city, Monroe County has provided: Up to 700 hours a week of Sheriff’s patrols within the city; Millions of dollars in increased mental health services and addiction services; Increased violence prevention training for juveniles; and Increased victim support services, including relocation for families experiencing violence, and programs for those aging out of foster care. Monroe County’s increased violence reduction initiatives will pay dividends into the future. We will continue to work with the City of Rochester and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office as part of a clearly thought out operational plan.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.