ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — During a time when many people would say community policing is more important than ever, the pandemic has put a lot of outreach events on hold.
“Just about all of our community events, our outreaches, our tip events, most of our meetings, all those things were canceled last year or postponed due to the COVID restrictions,” Rochester Police Department Captain Mark Mura said.
The pause of these community engagement events comes at a tough time. During the pandemic, Monroe County has seen an uptick in crime, and community members say getting police into neighborhoods is more important than ever.
“We need hand-on-hand policing, you know walking the streets, walking in the neighborhoods, engaging with residents, engaging with businesses, because they are going to learn more information on what’s going on when they do that,” said Albert Algarin, the President of North Clinton Business Association.
Whether its coffee with a cop, having cook outs, or just getting out and shaking hands, community members say building relationships helps build trust.
“If you have an officer who is patrolling on foot, who can walk up and down streets of certain neighborhoods, I think that is a good way to be seen, and also have people who are in the community, maybe someone who is sitting on their porch and you know strike up a conversation with them, let them know a little more about you,” community activist Antonia Wynter said.
Wynter also said having police officers in neighborhoods that come from those neighborhoods is also important.
The deaths of Daniel Prude, George Floyd, and others have led to protests around the city during the pandemic, and the Rochester Police Department says they are working to make community members feel heard.
“We are trying to do everything we can for the community and part of that certainly is reaching out to different groups that have been protesting because we want to make sure everybody has a voice and we want to make sure we’re working with all the different groups so that everybody feels like their voice is being heard,” Capt. Mura said.
Algarin says he wants the entire community to come together to help figure out how to get violence under control and better protect the city.
“We just can’t continue the way we are going. I think city council needs to sit down with the neighborhoods, city council needs to sit down with businesses. I think we need to sit down with judges, with police, in one common place so we can learn from each other, so we can continue to do better work,” Algarin said.
Captain Mura says before the pandemic, the department held 400 to 500 events a year with the community. They plan to start bringing many of those outreach events back, beginning this summer.