‘The worst I’ve seen it’: Recently retired investigator speaks out about homicide rates in Rochester

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As violence in the City of Rochester continues to rise, the police department’s Major Crimes Unit is working around the clock. 

John Brennan, who just retired from the Major Crimes Unit, says some of the team members are working 50 to 80 hours per week in order to solve crimes and homicides. 

“The homicide rate is out of control, it’s the worst I have seen it,” Brennan said.

With the increase in crime, some investigators rarely get to go home, which can have an impact on their families. 

“There’s days where a homicide investigator will get called in and maybe if he’s lucky, he will go home for a couple hours of sleep and comes right back,” Brennan said. “It’s not unheard of being at the office for two or three days.” 

John Brennan retired from Major Crimes this past weekend after nine years. He says the entire police department is facing a shortage, which has made it tough for everyone that’s part of the unit. 

“The guys and girls are working outrageous numbers of hours, they are getting to the point where they can’t even get days off, the shortage is unbelievable,” Brennan said. “There’s so much over time right now, in the old days, you’d be fighting for over time, right now, you’re fighting to get away from it, that’s how bad it is.”

Brennan said it’s also tough to fill positions because it requires moving people from other positions. 

“There are shootings every night in the city of Rochester where somebody is going to the hospital that has been shot,” Brennan said. “Those investigators they are trying to solve those cases, and they have victims that won’t cooperate but they still have to try to solve the case.”

“And then on top of every other case they are investigating, pulling from the section investigators hurts those particular investigations,” Brennan said. “If you pull from them, for us, you’ve got to pull from the street for them, and we can’t pull from the street right now, there’s not enough officers.”

With Rochester already seeing 35 homicides this year, the 11 investigators on Major Crimes have been swamped as well. Brennan says they don’t forget about cases, but they have been impacted. 

“What happens is when the next one or the three next ones come in, that case if the leads aren’t solid, if the witnesses aren’t there, they will still work it but they have to go to the next one and try to get as much done on that one, which hurts all the other cases,” Brennan said. 

Brennan says they are also having a problem with witnesses coming forward to speak. 

“The biggest problem we are having right now is people aren’t stepping up. They are not talking. We have got people that have actually seen homicides that won’t come forward,” Brennan said. 

Brennan says he knows the police department can’t fix everything, but he’s hoping the community will work together to change things.  

“We cannot solve all the problems. We can’t. Our job is to protect people and make sure they are safe. We agree, I agree 100%, we have to fix the educational system,” Brennan said. “We’ve got great teachers, but the system is broken. The economics, I agree 100% with anybody out there that says we got to get to the root of the problem.” 

The Major Crimes Unit currently has 11 investigators, which according to Brennan, is actually more than they have had in the past. He said the team could use more investigators, but because of the staffing shortage, he doesn’t think his position will be filled any time soon. 

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