Police, city leaders, peace organizations explain why gun violence is surging in Rochester

Local News

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — On the eve of the federal law enforcement’s press conference Wednesday to present their solutions to curb violence in the region, many on both sides here are looking for solutions to stop it.

Chief James Vanbrederode with the Gates Police Department says Rochester ‘takes the cake’ right now when it comes to violent crime, and what happens in the city, impacts the whole region. He wants to see more of a presence to prevent crime, while others say they want to see more mediation out on the streets.

Vanbrederode also serves as the President of the Monroe County Police Chiefs Association and says the criminal justice system in New York has been watered down.

“We struggle to be able to take the ‘bad of the bad guys’ off the street,” he says adding, “And the tell-tale moment when you know you have a problem with your State criminal justice system, is when you have to go to then to the government that’s above you, which is the federal government, to go to their criminal justice system and see what tools are in the toolbox so that we can keep the bad guys off the street.”

Chief James Vanbrederode of the Gates Police Department. He also serves as President of the Monroe County Police Chiefs Association

Vanbrederode says a lot of these crimes are from repeat offenders, a product of bail reform. The feds stepping in to help, a sign of how bad things are. What prevents crime he says, is just having a police presence, the defunding of resources not helping. Another jump in violence he says is young people.  

“You know we can get to these kids if we just have the time and resources,” he said.

Melvin Cross Jr. is with Pathways to Peace, a youth engagement violence prevention program. He says so much of this spike in violence involves young people who don’t know how to resolve disputes, especially post-COVID and post-lockdown.

“It just seems like all of that is coming to a boiling point,” said Cross.

He says to solve this, bring everyone to the table, police and community. 

“I feel like that would be able to slow the violence down,” he said.

Cross adds, “If we could get, which we do have a healthy relationship with law enforcement and other community organizations if we could all work together, I think that would be very beneficial. We don’t want to over police the community, but we don’t want to under police it, either. We want to have balance, we want to have our community partners.”

Melvin Cross, Jr. with Pathways to Peace

Rochester City Councilmember Mary Lupien saying investing in violence prevention right now is a must. 

“A lot of the murders that we’re seeing are retaliatory gang violence,” she says.

Something Cross also said. In other words, the violence isn’t all random. Lupien says mediators in the community can dissolve these acts before they happen. 

“Once those relationships are built, they can be transitioned into programs to really help them out of the life,” she says.

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