ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Mayoral candidate, and Rochester City Council member, Malik Evans held a press conference Thursday morning where he announced his plans on how to reduce violence in the city, and proposed programs to to expand youth development services.
“The number 13,795 is an important number; those are the residents between the ages of 15 and 19 in the City of Rochester,” Evans said. “48% of Rochester’s youth under the age of 18 live in poverty. We are third overall in poverty in the nation of top 75 of the metropolitan area. A recent survey found 12% of students in the Rochester City School District said they’ve carried a weapon in the last 30 days. 5% of students say they’ve carried a gun in the last 12 months. 10% of students say they’ve missed school in the last 30 days because they felt unsafe on their way to school. 14% of those students say they were teased, harassed, or attacked at school, or on the way to school in the past 30 days. 26% of students say they were in a physical fight at least once during the last 12 months. We are in a state of emergency in Rochester as it relates to young people.”
To help address the violence, and issues RCSD students are facing, Evans proposed a work program for kids.
“Youth to Work Program, in the first 100 days, will allow us to be able to create over 10,000 jobs for any young person in this community that wants a job,” Evans said. “My first job was when I was 14 years old; I was so busy working that I had little time to get into trouble. So it’s important that we find meaningful opportunities for young people and that starts with employment. Through private-public partnerships, it is an investment we have to make in our young people and I know we can do it.”
To demonstrate the need for this kind of program, Evans said in 2020, the program Rochester Works had 1,996 applicants for 332 available spots.
“There is a demand for our young people to be able to work,” Evans said. “We have to be preventative in our approach to violence and one of the ways to do that is to make sure young people are working and have a job.”
Another proposal by Evans to addressing youth violence in Rochester is the implementation and expansion of teen court.
“Teen court is probably one of the most progressive, innovative programs in this community, however we need it to expand and effect more young people,” Evans said. “Not only does this humanize our children and not criminalize them, but it allows them to be able to pay for their mistakes, but also at the same time learn valuable lessons of what it means to be an attorney, a juror, and to be able to interact with judges. That can have a lasting impact on their lives.
“Those skills that I learned in that program were absolutely invaluable, but also I was able to see many of my friends and peers who committed low level crime, never commit a crime again,” Evans said. “Teen court allows these young people to be involved in the criminal justice system for the first time, and hopefully the last time, and then they are connected to something.”
The Councilman says teen court is currently fighting an uphill battle in terms of resources, which is why he thinks raising awareness about it can help.
“Teen court was a city program, it’s now currently at the center for youth, but it’s almost all private money,” Evans said. “The public sector has not participated, and that needs to change.”
A third proposal by Evans includes a youth development program with a focus on peer mediation.
“I want every single young person in this community trained as a peer mediator,” Evans said. “Those skills are absolutely invaluable that pay it forward for our young people, and they allow us to be able to see young people not get involved in petty disputes that escalates sometimes to guns.”
Evans’ press conference Thursday took place at the Frederick Douglass Auditorium on King Street, where the mayoral candidate reflected on the words of the celebrated abolitionist and writer.
“Douglass said it is easier to build strong children than repair broken men, and I’ll add women to that as well,” Evans said. “We need to be able to ensure that we’re building strong children with a comprehensive youth development strategy that will allow our young folks to thrive, not just survive, and it’s imperative if we’re going to have a strong community. Hope is real in Rochester, despite all of the challenges, despite all of the negative things that we have seen over the last year — I truly believe that hope is real in Rochester.”
Evans says the investment in city youth will end up paying for itself.
“This is a front-end investment, this is a front-end approach, it will pay for itself,” Evans said. “This is an investment that will need to be funding by regular city dollars, the county will have to be involved, we hope the school district will get involved, as well as philanthropy.”
Evans said the city’s issues are not exclusive to Rochester, and that as the seat of Monroe County, the state of the city effects the surrounding neighborhood and region.
“I say to people who don’t love in the city, the city is the heart beat,” Evans said. “You need the entire body to function. If the heart is weak, we will be weak in Pittsford, in Webster, in Parma, etc. So we have to focus on the heart right now and the heart is in the city. That’s why this investment is really a drop in the bucket, but it’s an investment that will pay dividends long term.”
Evans announced his entry in the race for Rochester mayor on January, challenging incumbent Mayor Lovely Warren.
In late April, New York State Assemblyman Harry Bronson (D-138) endorsed Evans in the race for mayor.
The primary election is scheduled for June 22, 2021.
The Evans campaign released the following information on his proposals:
The first policy plank calls for the creation of a youth employment plan that would dramatically expand early career opportunities and skills training to Rochester youth. Using the federal stimulus money, this program would triple the funding available to the city’s youth employment services division to $3 million and guarantee a job to any teenager who wants one. Teens would also be provided with training on workplace skills and expectations, business and management concepts, and personal finance.
“An investment in our youth is an investment in our future,” said Evans. “My own job at Genesee Valley Park as a teenager provided me with skills that prepared me for life.RochesterWorks, a terrific organization that helps hundreds of kids each year, had almost 2,000 applicants for only 332 spots in the 2020 Summer Youth Employment Program. If we guaranteed a job to every applicant, we could teach thousands of children the skills to be successful in life while putting money in their pockets and helping Rochester’s small businesses. I will work to build a broad-based coalition of government, business, philanthropy, and education to get the resources we need to make Youth2Work successful.”
The second policy plank involves expanding and providing needed resources to Rochester Teen Court. Teen Court is a program where the District Attorney’s office defers prosecution and diverts low-level offenses to a court system where teen peers act as attorneys and jurors.
“I had the privilege of serving as one of the first youth attorneys when I was in high school,” said Evans. “One of Rochester’s most successful intervention services, Teen Court allows young people with low level misdemeanors to atone for their crimes while keeping their record clean. Private philanthropy has been supporting Teen Court in recent years. My administration will work with those organizations to ensure that as many appropriate cases as possible are referred to this valuable, restorative program, and provide additional resources so that teens’ first offense will be their last. We will also expand support for peer mediation training so that more youth are prepared to peacefully resolve conflicts that have plagued our community. We will also expand support for peer mediation training so that more youth are prepared to peacefully resolve conflicts that have plagued our community.”
This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.