ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A task force made up of Rochester police and several federal partners is changing its approach in order to get some of the most violent criminals, and more dangerous weapons, off the streets. The specialized task force has been around for about 20 years and as the nature of crimes evolve, the group works to stay on top of the latest trends.
The ‘Violent Crime Task Force’ in Rochester is made up of of RPD officers, Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies and federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
ATF first established a field office in Rochester in 2003, when the start of the ‘Violent Crime Task Force’ began. The muli-agency team harnesses tools and expertise from each department to identify, determine and go after the most violent criminals. There has been a shift in the way the VCTF approaches cases to maximize results with the ATF adding more direct support to Rochester last July.
“The ATF has been great with us. They’ve now provided us with an ATF agent that’s on-call 24-hours a day to evaluate our gun arrests, our firearm arrests. Especially those that are more violent offenders, or our most violent offenders — to evaluate those on a constant live-basis, to determine, working with the U.S. Attorney’s office, what the best method of prosecution is for that offender,” says Rochester Police Lt. Greg Bello.
“We could get a phone call, let’s say 2:00 in the morning. We can talk with RPD officer, get the facts from the arrest, contact the U.S. attorney’s office, and make very quick decisions of a federal arrest on somebody,” explains Michael Curran, ATF Resident Agent in Charge at the Rochester Field Office.
Lt. Bello explains that not every firearm arrest is prosecuted federally, estimating between 400 and 500 cases prosecuted in the city. Since this addition six months ago, RPD says more than 70 offenders have been federally charged.
An example of a case RPD is highlighting: the August 8th arrest of 28-year-old Tyshawn Babers. His parole had ended in January last year after serving a 5-year sentence for an armed robbery with a handgun, but by August, he had obtained an illegal loaded .45 caliber handgun with an extended magazine.
“At that point he had menaced somebody, pointed that handgun, while striking that person in a domestic relationship. We were able to get Mr. Babers in custody and get that handgun into possession. Clearly he’s a violent individual, clearly he has the potential to bring significant harm to our community, and the evaluation was made that night to where federal charges were filed on him that day,” Lt. Bello says.
Babers plead guilty to the federal charges and was recently sentenced to four years in federal prison, with a three year post-release supervision.
The VCTF is continuing to expand. Earlier this year, ATF provided RPD with a full-time expert from the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network.
“All of that ballistic evidence is run through the crime lab and it’s compared to other ballistic evidence so you can start linking guns to the same shooting. Alright this gun, these casings we picked up over on Clinton Avenue come from the same gun that was used over on Jefferson,” Lt. Bello explains.
“It moves things along very quickly. We focus on the violent criminals in the community. We focus on the trigger-pullers that are doing the violent crime. We want to make sure that we’re focusing on this and by moving so fast, we get them right to federal court and we get them out of the community,” Curran adds.
A previous project involving federal partners called VIPER has since ended.