ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester’s Democratic mayoral candidates are speaking out about the recent surge in gun violence across the area.
Mayor Lovely Warren and her Democratic primary challenger, City Councilman Malik Evans, both say addressing gun violence is a priority of their campaigns.
Just over the weekend, an 18-year-old was killed on Genesee Street after being shot multiple times. Two 14-year-olds also were sent to hospitals with gun shot wounds in separate instances.
“It’s totally unacceptable for our community. What worries me is that people are starting to become desensitized to it, that people are starting to see it as just a regular occurrence and that should alarm everyone,” Candidate Malik Evans said. “This is not regular, this is not normal, and it is not right.”
Evans said there may be a lot of reasons why there has been more violence this year, including the pandemic and it’s impact on people’s mental health.
Rochester’s Mayor, Lovely Warren, says the violence has been “devastating” and comes down to who people are as human beings.
“You really have to look at hearts and minds. The heart of people has got to be that life is valuable and it’s frustrating when you see it’s so easy to pull a trigger and literally in the middle of the day, decide that you’re going to end someone’s life,” Warren said.
Both candidates talked to News 8 about their plans to address the city’s uptick in gun violence if elected.
Evans plans to appoint a gun czar and declare a gun emergency in Rochester. He also said he plans to increase preventative programs for youth so their focus will be more on working and not getting involved in crimes.
“A lot of young people need to be directed to different activities,” Evans said. “They need to be rounded up and given opportunities to do other things.”
Warren says if she is re-elected, she plans on empowering community organizations that fight against violence, like Rise Up Rochester, Save Our Youth and Roc the Peace.
“Giving them the support and the tools they need and providing the table from which we operate from and breaking the city down into different areas where people will be able to focus, will know that this particular issue is owned by this particular agency or this community organization,” Warren said.
Warren also said it’s important to offer educational opportunities, which can help keep people from getting involved in crime.
“It is easy to get hurt when you have the challenges that you have and we have had for decades a failed education system and if you go to prison today and ask how many of them graduated from high school or post-secondary college or anything like that, it’s very few. That’s a problem.” Warren said. “We need to deal with the root cause of issues and provide those opportunities to get an education.”
Evans says it’s important that families also play a role in helping address the violence.
“Parents have to know what their children are doing. Parents have to know what is in their house. If a young person is carrying a gun, 9 times out of 10 they are sleeping in your house with a gun,” Evans said. “If they live under your roof, you have responsibility for those kids and if you see something changing in your young people, if they are hanging out with the wrong crowd, reach out and get help.”
This past year and all the violence has been tough on many families. Mayor Warren says she understands it’s been difficult but she doesn’t want people to give up hope.
“I know that people have had a hard time and that people are frustrated and hurting in many ways and I just want them to know that we will get through this,” Warren said. “Trouble doesn’t last always.”
Evans says gun violence needs to stop because it not only hurts the community economically, but it also peoples’ futures.
“When you have a young person being killed, you are robbing the community of a future doctor, a future lawyer, a future engineer, a future person that might be able to solve a disease. The graveyards are filled with too many young people with so much potential that is cut short because of gun violence and I think that is what is hurting us as a community.”
The primary election is on June 22nd.