ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The city has seen 19 homicides since the start of 2021. Last year at this time, that number was less than half of what it is now. Two of the most recent happening within 24 hours of another, and as crime increases, voices in the community increase in number as well.
“It’s a very difficult situation,” said Wanda Ridgeway, Director of Rise Up Rochester, a nonprofit ministry out of Baber AME Church, that works to prevent violence in the community. That’s how she describes talking to the family of a young man shot and killed on Mead St. early Thursday morning.
“From what I’m hearing, he was bringing his son home from school, so you know just upsetting.”
She’s also part of the city’s homicide response team. Her job requires her to pay visits and check-in with families’ of victims after a scene. After investigators notify family their one has died, Ridgeway steps in, meeting them in mobile trauma units, hospital or homes depending on the situation. She comforts and guides them in the next steps.
Ridgeway says there have been upticks of violence in years’ past – but nothing like this that she can remember.
And she’s not alone.
Rudy Rivera – Founder and CEO of the Father Tracy Advocacy Center says a deadly shooting in March took place 200 feet from the center. He described how some passer-bys reacted to the situation minutes after it happened, calling it appalling.
“20 to 30 people were there, this man is dying on the floor and people walk by him like he was a cigarette butt, taking selfies…” he said. Rivera also expressed concern for not seeing certain activist groups in attendance of his press conference, or flooding the streets in protest for violence.
Also in attendance, Ida Perez with Scrantom Street Block Club, who expressed increasing concern for stray bullets. She works in an area near what she describes a troublesome block. “Bullets don’t assign to any particular person, they can go and hit an innocent person and that’s really really my fear,” she said.
Last year at this time the city had seven homicides today. The year before that, there were six. And before that – only two.
For Ridgeway, the uptick can take a toll on her emotional and mental wellbeing for the job she does.
She says faith in God keeps her going – and she may get tired – but she’s not giving up on this city.
“We may bend but we won’t break, they’re going to hear our voice we are tired enough is enough,” she said.
Ridgeway says 60% of homicides are caused by dispute – which is why Rise Up Rochester plays a big role in partnering with schools to educate youth on how to solve conflict properly. Ridgeway says they haven’t been able to get inside schools for these workshops since the pandemic, making prevention efforts and outreach even more difficult.