As Rochester nears 70 homicides in 2021, community searches for solutions to violence

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As Rochester nears 70 homicides this year, community members and leaders are discussing ways to stop the violence. 

On Monday, Rochester police, city council members, activists, business leaders, and community members gathered to address the ongoing issue. Save Rochester held a panel at the Mercantile on Main so community members could share their thoughts on ways to help with the crime.

The discussion comes as Rochester saw it’s 67th homicide on Sunday after a man was shot on the city’s west side. This number is double what the city saw in 2019, where there were 32 homicides total.

A big topic of discussion was focused on building positive relationships among police and the community. 

One community member asking police, “Why do you feel as if we should put ourselves in positions to where we go out there and we have these conversations with police when we know for a fact, because it’s been proven, history repeats itself, that you guys don’t provide any protection for us in those instances?”

Interim Rochester Police Chief David Smith says although he wants there to be more engagement between police and the community, it’s difficult right now due to staffing issues. 

“I would love to have bike patrols out there, I would love to have foot patrols out there, I would love to have school resource officers, but we have a personnel crisis. I am down 61 officers, true vacancies,” Smith said. 

Other community members said the focus can’t be on arresting people, but instead fixing the systems already in place. 

“The crime doesn’t just occur, as the brother said in the back, when the person picks up the gun or the knife, it occurs when all these different systems have failed to them prior to that point. Violence isn’t the act, violence is the failure of the most prominent people in our community failing to act,” said Justin Morris, a community member. 

“We’re not, nor should we have ever try to arrest our way out of the social problem. It can’t be done, it won’t be done, and it really puts a strain on everything,” Smith said. 

Law enforcement officials and prosecutors also called on community members to do their part to help and speak out if they know information about a case.

“The most important thing that we as prosecutors and we as police can have, the most important resource, are not weapons and pole cameras, they’re people, their members of the community,” said Andy Rodriguez, a federal prosecutor.

“I view it as a responsibility as anyone who lives in an organized, civilized community, if they see a crime, they should help report and help the victims and police solve the crime. Those are not snitches, those are responsible citizens.”

Police say the majority of guns used in the crimes are either purchased out of state where there are looser gun laws. They say a small number come from burglaries from legitimate gun owners who didn’t secure their guns. 

The panel also discussed the uptick in violence being seen at Rochester City schools. 

Just last Friday, five Franklin High School staff say they were assaulted on school grounds. An Edison Tech student was also recently shot on his way to the bus stop. 

One local senior says he sees his classmates suffering and is writing a mental health literacy course to present to school officials for approval.

“I learned that a lot of the issues that we are seeing with our youth with the violence and the fighting is a product of hurt youth that simply don’t know how to deal with their hurt, but to temporally satisfy it by hurting others,” said Isaiah Santiago, a senior at the School of the Arts. 

To view the Rochester police’s open crime data portal, click here.

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