Rochester, N.Y. (WROC) – The Rochester Puerto Rican Festival is underway for the first time in two years.

The event was put on hold during the pandemic and over the years, there have been continued concerns of safety. Not with the festival itself, but with incidents that happen after the festival.

The North East Safety Committee plans to continue its presence in the North Clinton neighborhood, an area that has been prone to crime, including on nights when the Puerto Rican Festival is held.

Members act as a safe buffer between law enforcement and members of the community.

“We’re already seeing the excitement of the people. Frontier Field is our home. We’ve been here since 2007 and we love having it here,” said Orlando Ortiz, president of the festival.

This year, the festival was moved from its usual Friday to Sunday run to Thursday to Saturday. In part, to help with crowd control.

Ortiz says in his nearly 20 years working on the event, he’s never witnessed an issue on event grounds. However, what transpires after the festival, he says, is a different story.

That’s where the North East Safety Committee comes in. For the last five years, volunteers have spent time in those neighborhoods, acting as a buffer to ensure safety in the community.

Their efforts were prompted by violence seen after the Puerto Rican Festival all those years ago.
“Let us be clear, we’re not law enforcement. We’re just concerned community members who try to help out as best as possible. What we do is walk up and down the North Clinton neighborhood with bright yellow shirts. We want to be bastians of good activities and we want to be able to have and be some type of intermediary between our citizens and members of law enforcement,” said Anthony Nunez, director for the North East Safety Committee.

Ortiz says the priority is safety and ensuring attendees enjoy the festival the way they remember it.

“We want people to come out, enjoy, have a good time and celebrate safely,” said Ortiz.

The event runs through Saturday night. Enhanced security isn’t planned, however the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office plans to assist the Rochester Police Department on any calls this weekend.