Rochester Mayor-Elect Malik Evans on city violence: ‘It’s something we have to get a handle on’

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Addressing the increase in crime across Rochester is something Mayor-Elect Malik Evans plans to make a priority within his administration. 

On Wednesday, Evans made his first public address after officially becoming the city’s newest mayor-elect. During his address, he spoke heavily about his plans to combat the city’s on-going violence, specifically among our youth. 

Rochester saw its 68th homicide Tuesday night when a 15-year-old Franklin High student was fatally shot on the city’s northeast side. A week before, an Edison Tech student was shot while walking to a bus stop. 

On Tuesday afternoon, three teens were taken into custody after a home invasion involving a knife-point robbery and police chase in Gates.

While he doesn’t take office until Jan. 1, Evans said he has already started working on plans to address the violence. 

“That is the number one thing to address. People need to feel safe in their community,” Evans said on Wednesday. “It is absolutely critical. It’s something we have to get a handle on. You have to have collaborations across the country, across the city, across the county, across the state, and you see that this violence isn’t just isolated to Rochester.”

One of Evans’ plans involves creating a violence prevention program to help prevent the illegal flow of guns into the county. Evans echoes what Rochester police have said: guns used in most of the local crimes are coming from other states with looser gun laws. 

“Where’s the outrage? We have to understand we cannot tolerate this. We should have protests in the streets when these folks are being murdered,” Evans said. 

The Mayor-Elect said he also plans to work with the county to bring more mental health services to the area to help both adults and children, along with creating a youth opportunity agenda that focuses on providing more programs for kids to get involved in so they aren’t spending so much time out on the streets. 

“If young people are given opportunities, they are less likely to be involved in violence. Think about if a person had so much to do that they wouldn’t think about picking up that gun,” Evans said. 

News 8 spoke to a local mental health expert on why there has been an increase in violence involving youth? William Pearson, a program manager at Genesee Mental Health, said the pandemic has been hard on children. 

“The pandemic is a traumatic experience, and for us, as human beings, we struggle. And we have a need to feel safe, a need to feel that we’re okay, and when we keep having trauma upon trauma upon trauma, we become very hypersensitive to our surroundings or our relationships,” Pearson said.

 “Everything’s piling on together and we’re not ready. We haven’t got ourselves ready for that. We think post pandemic everything’s the same, it’s not even close to being the same. We’re all in that survival mode.”

Pearson adds that survival mode can leave people wanting to be around others who make us feel safe and secure. 

“I think with kids, a lot of it is joining together with other kids and you get that feeling of safety, you know that that gang part of it? You have your group,” he said. 

Now that kids are spending more time together, Pearson said there’s more excitement and desire to do daring and challenging things together. 

“We get caught up into the excitement and the excitement overtakes what we think we should be doing the right way. It takes away that rational thought… so the kids now are getting caught up into that. You know, that’s what makes the gangs very important because they are there together. If they’re feeling united, they’re feeling safe,” Pearson said. 

He said in order to see change, it’s going to take effort from everyone, including teachers, parents, community leaders and more. Pearson also added it’s important parents are taking care of their own mental health so they can better serve their children.

“Practice what I preach. Let me be well, let me take care of myself, so that I can take care of you,” Pearson advised.

To better support students, Pearson said their business is working with the city’s recreation department to bring more mental health resources to the area. 

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