ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The city of Rochester is about to leave behind a year with the highest number of homicides yet.
Mayor-elect Malik Evans is preparing to come into office with a heavy heart. He says there’s been too much loss of life this past year, to violence.
“We have lost too many individuals that could’ve been the next doctors, lawyers, sports broadcasters, mayors of cities,” he said.
But come January 1, it’s a fresh start.
Evans says for too long, Rochester has been in a reactive state when it comes to violence, and there needs to be more preventative measures. So, he’s looking to a city more than 300 miles away for advice on what might work.
In preparing for 2022, Evans has developed a close relationship with a mayor in Newark, New Jersey. Current mayor Ras Baraka is someone who’s been in his shows.
Eight years ago, Baraka was also a new mayor, coming into office with skyrocketing homicide rates. But he had a sense of commitment and hope in turning it around, using helping hands, from the public.
Evans says for Newark, they have a game plan that works. Since Baraka’s time in office began, The city has been able to cut homicides in half.
Evans took a trip down earlier this month to speak with Baraka and director of public safety Brian O’Hara on their community-based approaches.
Picture a community street team, comprised of members of the public, coming from all kinds of backgrounds. Many, have been in trouble with the law before, and turned their lives around.
“You have to bring in the entire community when you talk about violence prevention, you don’t just have police, you don’t just have community based organizations,” said Evans.
Their goal is to get out in the streets, connect with neighborhoods, mediate disputes, support survivors of crime, and patrol schools.
“There’s nothing more powerful than that because then you are able to see yourself in that person that was able to turn their lives around,” said Evans.
This year Newark is just under 60 homicides.
The idea for a community-based task-force like this is coming soon to Rochester, Evans says. He says all the key players are here, it’s just a matter of getting everyone together.
“We have probably 50 groups of individuals interested in changing our community, but there’s a lack of coordination,” he said. “The other thing is you can’t tell them, ‘hey here’s a seat at the table but you have to come here,’ we have to shift that and go to where the people are.”
Another important piece of advice Evans received from Baraka — choose your staff wisely and having confidence in the team.
“One of the things he told me and has stuck with me is to make sure you put the right people around you and if it doesn’t work out early you gotta change it,” said Evans.
Evans says the city of Newark has also done a lot of reform within their police department – a lot of that involving regular community-based feedback.