RPD seeks federal assistance to help reduce violent crime in Rochester


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester Police Department will seek assistance from federal law enforcement agencies to address the recent spike in violent crime, officials told News 8 Thursday.

RPD officials say officers will work with federal authorities to target known violent offenders and potentially present federal criminal charges.

“The goal here for me is simple,” Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said. “When people are arrested for violent gun-type incidences, I want them to stay in jail. It’s that simple.”

The Rochester Police Department deputy chief says the increase in violence has police working around the clock. 

“The major’s crimes units for the past couple weeks has literally been bunking in the building,” said Deputy Chief of Operations David smith.

Rochester has had 34 homicides so far this year, including 11 this month alone, putting the city on pace for its highest homicide rate since at least 2012. The online database doesn’t show homicide statistics prior to 2012. 2021 has already had more homicides in the city than the entire calendar years of 2014, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

To reduce this violent crime wave officers are targeting known offenders. For example, on June 11, officers arrested Phillip Owens who they say shot a man six times along South Clinton Avenue in May. And then a video surfaced of the June 5th arrest of Jarvis Lewis, whose gun matched several ongoing shooting investigations in the city.

“As you can see, we’re making arrests doing the best we can but there is just a lot going on out,” said Smith.

The chief says data shows a high percentage of offenders are released on criminal possession of weapon charges or were out on low bail. She says the system needs a reboot. 

“My focus here is on violent offenders with a gun violence history that get arrested more than once and that like I said I want them in jail and I want them to stay there,” said Chief Herriott-Sullivan. “Judges have to follow certain processes I get it but my feeling is, however, we have this structured, we just have to do something different”

And now, the US marshal’s office will give RPD extra support. The chief is also working with the US attorney’s office to target specific criminal cases, and potentially bring federal charges. The Rochester Police Department already works with the U.S. Marshals Office for certain investigations and cases in the city.

“We’re working together with our federal partners. Major focus is the US attorney’s office because they would be the ones who bring the charges,” said Chief Herriott-Sullivan. “No one wants to see this, what we’re dealing with, so we’re all coming together on that and we’re united.”

City council members Willie Lightfoot, Jose Peo, Lashay Harris, and Loretta Scott were at the press conference supporting the partnership and urging the community to do their part

“Help us, help the Rochester police department put an end to this madness. I believe that police are doing their very best I also believe that they could use some help,” said Scott.

One of the most prominent Black Lives Matter activist groups released a statement urging a different approach. Free the People Roc noted that the neighborhoods most affected by the violence are being crushed by povery and a lack of access to community resources.

“We are devastated by the ongoing incidents of gun violence in our community. Predictably, the neighborhoods we see most affected by intercommunal violence are those that have suffered historical disinvestment, resulting in concentrated poverty and a crushing lack of access to resources. Our communities need help and support, not the FBI. The FBI is an organization who has historically destroyed Black and brown communities and dismantled Black organizations working to protect our community. Through the work of violence prevention organizations like Advance Peace, we know that when people at risk of being involved in gun violence are provided with mentoring, opportunities to earn livable wages, heal trauma and learn alternatives to violence, the trajectory of their lives drastically change. We call for the implementation of Advance Peace in our city, as they’ve been successful in reducing gun violence without police in Richmond, California by 86% over a 10-year period.  We deserve long-term investments that actually interrupt the cycle of violence and address the root causes, not more police and incarceration.”

Free The People Roc Responds to Police Chief Cynthia Herriot-Sullivan calling in the FBI 

Watch the full press conference


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