ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Mayor Malik Evans provided an update on the city’s gun violence emergency order Tuesday afternoon, alongside several community leaders.
Nearly 20 days have passed since the mayor declared a gun violence state of emergency. In that time, the city has seen five homicides, including the shooting death of a Rochester police officer.
The most recent homicide involved a 16-year-old boy who was shot dead near the 400 block of Pennsylvania Avenue just hours before the conference started.
Evans started by saying that he will continue to provide periodic updates as long as the state of emergency order is in place.
“Gun violence is like a public health crisis, so I will update folks every other week,” Evans said, adding that he would provide additional updates “from time to time” as needed. “I will tell you that I have seen success in using this order, as it relates to businesses that have been related to scenes of, where we’ve had violence.”
The emergency order allows the mayor to control the presence of persons on public streets and places along with having the power to shut down a particular street. Evans said at the press conference that one location has been closed down as a result of the order so far, and one “modified.”
He highlighted that the Rochester Police Department has been targeting “micro hotspots” where violence is more prevalent, such as North Clinton Avenue.
Additional neighborhoods that Evans said are seeing “disproportionate numbers of violence” in comparison to the rest of the city include the zip code 14605, North Clinton Avenue, and the Lyell Avenue area.
“Those are on our radar and we are spending lots of time and resources in those areas,” he said.
Evans described the city’s approach to reducing violence as a three-pronged approach: Prevention, intervention, and suppression. He described the executive order as both “a carrot and a stick.”
“We’re going to work with business or places, if they’re doing the right thing, and [if] they’re going to help us combat negative behavior,” he explained. “We’re going to work with them. But if they’re not, we are going to close them down.”
He said initially, the city will reach out to the business to “start a conversation,” to voluntarily make changes. But if the business does not comply, Evans said the city will turn to the state Supreme Court to fast-track the closure of certain businesses, as part of the executive order.
Evans warned against large, unsanctioned gatherings in particular, especially if a business is involved.
“That’s not what we want to do… [but] we cannot have people congregating at 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock in the morning, thinking they can do whatever the heck they want in the city of Rochester, endangering neighbors and innocent people,” Evans said. “Not going to tolerate it.”
Evans said some businesses have already been quietly closed down due to their lack of compliance following a reported incident. “We worked with a third business owner to make necessary changes in that area to ensure the safety of the patrons and residents,” he said.
“We’ve had way too many homicides and shots fired incidences in the City of Rochester this year,” President of Rochester City Council Miguel Meléndez said at the conference. “It pains me every time I wake up in the morning to the news that something else has occurred in our community.”
Just one day into the state of emergency on July 21, Rochester Police Officer Anthony Mazurkiewicz was shot and killed in the line of duty during an evening patrol along Bauman Street.
He was laid to rest following a city-wide procession and funeral outside the Blue Cross Arena. There, those close to Mazurkiewicz, including colleagues, police partners and his four kids, who all spoke on the behalf of the 29-year-veteran.
Meléndez said that City Council is looking for community organizations either currently working to prevent violence or interested in assisting the city’s public safety goals. “We need to continue to push for community collaboration,” he said.
The Chief of RPD David Smith shared more specific actions taken as a result of the emergency order, as well as some relevant data and numbers. In addition to discussing expanded operations, Smith provided an update on the attempts to get ATVs and other illegal off-road vehicles off the streets.
Year-to-date, Smith said RPD has seized 28 ATVs (two of which were stolen), 39 dirt bikes, 18 minibikes, and 2 mopeds. Turning to weapons, Smith said that 367 handguns and 108 long guns were seized this year.
According to the Rochester Police Department’s open portal database, the city is trailing behind last year’s record-setting homicide rate by just two, something that Smith touched on.
Evans also brought Commissioner of the Department of Recreation and Human Services Dr. Shirley Green to highlight the work being done outside of law enforcement to prevent violence. Dr. Green highlighted the many events happening throughout the summer.
“We continue to focus on keeping our young people engaged in meaningful, productive places that are safe for our citizens,” Dr. Green said. She also highlighted that 745 students have been placed in summer jobs this year, with an addition 160 in a violence prevention program.
The last to speak was Special Advisor to the Mayor on Violence Prevention Services Victor Saunders, who spearheads a brand new violence prevention initiative. Like Meléndez, Saunders put out a call for grassroots, “boots on the grounds” organizations who may be interested in working with the city.
“If I could just say this: All the stuff that we’re doing here? It’s not going to solve everything,” Evans said at the end of the conference. “The stuff that we’re doing here is not going to stop two people who don’t like what someone else said on Facebook, so they decide to meet up at a large gathering and start having a fight. And instead of fighting with their hands, they decide to pull out a gun and shoot each other, and then injure other people and themselves. All this stuff is not going to stop that type of nonsense. And I want to be clear, we still have a lot of that nonsense going on in our community. And I don’t want people to think that the Mayor of Rochester — or any of our community partners — are going to be able to stop a lot of the stuff that involves hearts and minds and conversations […] So we continue to ask the community to make sure that you talk it out before you pick up a gun and start firing at someone.”
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.