ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester is officially in a Gun Violence State of Emergency, Mayor Malik Evans declared during a press conference Thursday morning.
In a press release ahead of Thursday’s discussion, the mayor issued a statement regarding the violent trends in the city, describing the violence “in two words: depravity and cowardice.”
This comes just one day after the city’s 40th and 41st homicide this year. Two people were shot and killed overnight Wednesday when more than 40 shots hailed on Rauber Street.
The mayor was joined at the conference by City Council President Miguel Meléndez Jr., Rochester Police Chief David Smith, Advisor to the Mayor on Violence Prevention Programs Victor Saunders, and Dr. Shirley Green, Commissioner of the City’s Department of Recreation and Human Services.
“Unless we don’t change something, we will break records,” Evans said. “202 individuals who have been shot. There are men and women out there who are working — 444 weapons off the streets. But, we have work to do. We will continue this collaboration, but we have to take it to the next level.”
Mayor Evans has issued a “Proclamation of a Local State of Emergency” effective immediately, which gives him broader powers to “protect life and property and to bring the emergency under control,” officials with the City of Rochester stated. To read the full proclamation, see the bottom of this article.
According to city charter documents, the order will be effective indefinitely. Evans will now have the power to regulate and close places of amusement and assembly, and prohibit and control the presence of persons on public streets and places.
“I am hoping — and I know that with this declaration — it will give us the ability to get more resources, but also be more targeted in specific areas and stop people from wreaking havoc in our city,” Evans said.
According to the mayor, the order will be revisited every five days starting Thursday, July 21. The mayor also mentioned that he can choose to shut down a particular street.
“When I came into the office people told me ‘oh you can’t just talk about the violence, you have to talk about the good stuff too,'” Evans said. “We have a lot of good stuff, but I promised Rochester that I would be transparent. We do not want to hold people hostage, but this affects everyone. We have a wart in our city.”
Smith, who in July became the first permanent chief to lead RPD in two years, laid out the latest numbers on violence, saying that shooting trends have started trending downward.
According to the chief, the city has seen a 7% decrease in shootings in a year-to-date comparison to 2021. Despite that decrease, Rochester is one homicide away from meeting last year’s year-to-date homicide rate.
Smith also said police will tailor their service to address locations that are affected by gun violence the most, focusing on the 50 most violent street segments in the city. Members of the department will also attempt to identify chronic offenders and focus on proactive intervention.
“Our evidence shows that the violence tends to cluster in small areas in Rochester,” Chief Smith said. “These small areas affect a disproportionate amount of the total violence in the city.”
Another big change, according to city officials, is a transition to attempting to parse out what drives crime in certain areas.
“I ask for patience,” Smith said. “We did not ask for this, the community and residents of this city did not ask for this. It will take time. I feel your pain and anger — we will not stop working.”
City officials said they are working to allocate funds to address the ongoing violence and support mental health initiatives. Evans closed with remarks on why the state of emergency is needed.
“This is no different than a flood,” Evans said. “And this is a flood as far as I’m concerned. It also means sometimes you have to do some things that might be out of the box. For example, if there’s a particular street we know is problematic, I can shut that street down and I will do that if necessary.”
Businesses react to State of Emergency
Business owners and people around North Clinton Ave. said that most of the violence happens at night and is forcing some people out of the area while others don’t want to come to the area.
Albert Algarin, the president of the North Clinton Avenue Business Association, said that there was a large turnaround in violence and shootings — calling it a chronic problem.
Algarin added that some businesses want to leave out of fear, while other businesses don’t want to come. He believes Mayor Evans’s emergency declaration might do some good.
“All we can do is continue to work with the city — work with the police, work with the merchants, and somehow as we work together that we can make it a better place,” Algarin said. “So that we can feel safer, not only to do business there but to shop there and residents can feel more comfortable coming out.”
Full Press Conference
Ahead of the press conference Thursday, the mayor issued the following statement:
The violence that we are witnessing can be summed up in two words: Depravity and cowardice.
A group of people in our city are shooting and killing each other over petty arguments because they lack the self-control required to settle their disputes peacefully. These shootings incite retaliatory shootings and the cycle continues until bodies are riddled with bullets and innocent bystanders are victimized.
Picking up a gun does not make someone tough or bold. Anyone can pull a trigger. A tough or bold person does not blindly fire a weapon into a crowd or house. In fact, relying on violence achieves just the opposite.
There is no courage, honor or status to be gained by shooting at another person. These are acts of depravity. These are acts of cowardice. Those who are perpetrating this violence are causing irreparable harm to themselves, their victims and the entire community.
Today, we are calling on Rochesterians to unite against these cowards. Let’s call these people what they truly are: Depraved cowards. Their reputations are not worth the lives of the people we love. Anyone who comes forward with information that could lead to an arrest and conviction is a true hero.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.