ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Mayor-elect Malik Evans held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss recent violence in the city, his administration’s transition progress, COVID-19, the Rochester City School District, and more.
“I want folks to know that even though I’m not sworn in yet, we are hard at work and trying to tackle the issues so we will be able to turn the switch on day one,” Evans said. “The number one thing is stopping the bleed.”
Evans decisively defeated Mayor Lovely Warren in June’s Democratic primary and went unopposed in November’s general election. He’ll be sworn into office on January 1, 2022.
“I’m asking for everyone in Rochester, on November 24, the day before Thanksgiving at 12 p.m., to pause for two minutes to reflect on the violence that has afflicted our community in the past 11 months,” Evans said.
Mayor Warren has since proclaimed a state of emergency due to violence, and has requested additional police assistance from New York state.
“My hope is that they [homicides] will decrease, but hope is not a plan,” Evans said.
Mayor-elect Evans displayed a jar of pebbles that he says represents shooting victims. Every time there’s a shooting in Rochester, he adds a pebble or a bead. He said he’s been keeping track of the jar for three years, and has added more than 300 pebbles so far this year alone.
“We have had a tough time in Rochester with the violence,” Evans said. “The question that we have to ask in this community is ‘how many more of these [pebbles] are we going to add?'”
The mayor-elect echoed his campaign’s sentiment of building bridges and bringing the community together as a way to stem the rising tide of violence.
“I am serious about bridge building in our community and bridge building cannot just be hyperbole,” Evans said. “It must be put into practice. Eradicating violence from our community will take a whole community approach with clear communication and effectual coordination.”
Evans said he met Wednesday with leaders from all levels of government, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the New York State Police, Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter, Interim Rochester Police Chief David Smith, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley, former Rochester Police Chief Cedric Alexander, and more to discuss the issue of violence in the community.
“It’s going to take a community approach,” Evans said. “That is why I had all the relevant partners in government together to chart that path forward.
“It [violence] does something to our community,” Evans said. “It makes us feel as though we’re defeated and we’re on our back. The message that I want to send to people is we can get up. We can get up off the pavement and we don’t have to stand for this.”
On the issue of bail reform, a topic that some law enforcement agencies point to as a cause for the rise in violence this year, Evans said he would need to see more information and stats before jumping to any conclusions.
“We are going to look at it,” Evans said. “Because I’m a data-driven guy, we need to look at what the data says. Any conversation we have has to be backed up by data and information… There is only a small amount of people that are being disruptive and trying to tear this community apart. That’s why I advocate for a scalpel’s approach and not an axe.”
Despite the best intentions of reducing violent crime in the city, the mayor-elect says it will take everyone to address the issue.
“I can’t do it by myself,” Evans said. “The police can’t do it by themselves. The community groups can’t do it by themselves. We need to do this in a collective way in order to stop the carnage that is on our streets. If we don’t take a whole community approach with everybody working together, we’re going to keep seeing what we’re seeing.”
Regarding the upcoming holidays, and the recent COVID-19 surge in Rochester, Monroe County, and the Finger Lakes, the mayor-elect urged residents to exercise caution and good judgement to help slow the spread.
“COVID continues to rage,” Evans said. “People who are eligible for boosters will be able to get them. We want to encourage Rochester residents, or people traveling here for Thanksgiving, to please make sure that if you’re eligible, to get vaccinated; please, please get vaccinated. Thanksgiving is coming up and it’s very, very concerning to many of us in the community for what will happen after Thanksgiving. We’re not going to lecture people, but we are going to try to get credible messengers and people to connect with folks to urge them to be able to be vaccinated.”
Evans said he would be announcing some appointments for his administration in the near future, adding that there will be an extensive search for Rochester’s next full time police chief. The city has had four acting police chief since last September when La’Ron Singletary was fired by Mayor Warren in the aftermath of Daniel Prude’s death.
Evans said the new chief will have to be someone who buys into his agenda of “Building a bridge to Rochester’s future.”
“A bridge to Rochester’s future involves 21st century policing where we are able to be agile, but also able to be tactical in terms of what it is that we decide to do in order to really involve the community in a way in which they feel that they can be a part of the solution,” Evans said.
Regarding issues within RCSD after the teachers union issued a vote of no confidence on behalf of the superintendent and district, the mayor-elect said his focus in the present is on larger issues facing the city as a whole.
“We need a strong school district in order to have a strong city, but in terms of me advocating for mayoral control at this point, that’s just not on the table,” Evans said.
Watch the full press conference
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