Rochester leaders on Gov. Cuomo’s gun violence disaster emergency: A top-down approach

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester city leaders are responding to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s disaster emergency on gun violence in New York state. 

The governor announced the seven-step plan Tuesday, hoping to free up money and programs to get help on the streets immediately. 

New York is the first state in the country to declare an emergency like this, but city leaders say it comes at a critical time. Rochester has already seen 38 homicides this year. 

“We shouldn’t be happy that this is happening. We should be extremely sad as leaders that we have allowed our city to get to this point,” said Jose Peo, a Councilman for Rochester’s Northwest district. 

Part of the governor’s plan to bring down gun violence includes a state police gun trafficking interdiction unit to help keep illegal guns from coming into the state. 

City Councilmember Malik Evans, who’s expected to take over as Rochester’s mayor in the fall, said this is an issue he plans to focus on heavily. 

“We know that it’s Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio where a lot of these guns are coming from, and that pipeline needs to be cut off at both the federal and state level because almost all of the violence were seeing in our community, 70% of it, has been illegal guns and we know that most of those guns are coming from out of state,” Evans said. 

Gov. Cuomo also said he plans to invest $138.7 million into intervention, prevention, and job programs to engage at-risk youth. Monroe County Executive Adam Bello say the money will go a long way in the city.

“Monroe County is getting an additional $130,000 that we can spend on youth programs, particularly focus in the city of Rochester, to help provide that path out of violence and help get kids into other structures and other systems that help support them in a health lifestyle,” Bello said. 

Peo says he believes the declaration will offer more long-term help and he welcomes the funding for nonprofits and programs for children, but he also says police need to be able to do their jobs. 

“We have to get out of their way as politicians, allow them to do their jobs that they are trained to do, make sure they are doing it right, make sure they doing it in respectful ways, but at the same time, sometimes dealing with the nitty gritty of these streets, it gets a little dirty and we need to allow them to do their jobs and get out of their way,” Peo said. 

Willie Lightfoot, the Vice President of Rochester’s City Council, says he is excited about the governor’s declaration and he welcomes help from the state.

“I have literally been screaming for this type of move from the top-down for years, and so I really believe in order for us to really combat violence locally, that it’s really going to take a top-down approach to really give us the resources and tools necessary to really be successful in crime prevention and violent prevention,” Lightfoot said.

Although this is a first-of-its-kind declaration for New York, Lightfoot praises the governor for taking this step. 

“You’ve got to start somewhere, somebody has to be the one to kick it off, right? Somebody’s gotta be the one that says enough is enough,” Lightfoot said. “This is a public health crisis, it’s a national public health crisis and for our governor to take leadership, and we’ve known that New York state has been a leader on a lot of different fronts, and so to see him take this stance is one of the things I actually kind of admire about this particular governor.”

Lightfoot said when the government announces something as a national or state emergency, it creates an environment for collaboration and partnership between people and agencies on all levels. 

“If you have people in silos, you’re going to have gaps, and if you have gaps, you’re going to have conflict, and if you have conflict, you’re going to have more violence, and so all those things lead to that,” Lightfoot said. “So when you have partnership and collaboration, you decrease the gaps, you decrease the conflict and you increase the potential for decreasing violence.”

Officials agree things aren’t going to change overnight and everyone has to work together to see things change. 

“The entire community has to stand up now and say enough is enough. We cannot wake up every morning and see additional loss of life that happened the night before. We really have to work together,” Bello said. 

The governor’s declaration came after 26 people were shot in NYC over this holiday weekend.  

“The governor yesterday declared a gun emergency because its an emergency and anybody who watches the evening news every day anyone who is paying attention, living in these neighborhoods that is ravaged by crime, families who are loosing loved ones every day, you can see it with your own eyes were living in an emergency so its going to take that emergency response to make a difference,” Bello said. 

Officials say it’s also important to remember change won’t happen over night.

“We need to understand that this is not going to be a quick turn around and we are quickly going to get these bad people off the streets, and turn our city around, it’s going to take a number of years before we get to the point where we can say whether or not it has worked,” Peo said. 

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