By Naveen Athrappully
Rochester, the fourth-largest city in New York state, has declared a state of emergency because of a drastic increase in the number of homicides and other violent crimes, making 2021 one of the deadliest years in recorded history.
“Today, Mayor Warren is declaring a local state of emergency to ensure additional resources are brought to bear with one clear goal: removing violent offenders from our neighborhoods,” reads a joint statement from Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren and City Council Vice President Willie J. Lightfoot on Nov. 12.
“These individuals have already committed crimes, are wanted for additional crimes and are most likely to be perpetrating the violence we’re seeing today. This action ensures we are doing all we can to remove these violent criminals from our streets.”
There have been 247 local violent offenders arrested since the beginning of the year, including 134 arrests were for firearms-related offenses. There were 71 reported homicides in 65 incidents, according to the city’s interim police chief, David M. Smith.
Warren has reached out to Gov. Kathy Hochul for assistance in the fight against local violence. Resources at the Rochester Police Department (RPD) and the Person in Crisis team have been reportedly stretched thin, with gun violence showing an increase of 95 percent from a year ago.
The median age of victims is 28, with the youngest victim less than 1 year old, and the oldest at 89, according to 13WHAM.
Assistance to police also is being requested elsewhere. In the Dewey Avenue area, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) will continue to aid RPD patrols. MCSO, along with New York State Police, are adding resources to the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force to arrest known violent offenders. More than 30 individuals are believed to be the main cause of the recent escalation in violence, Smith said.
“We need everyone’s help to make this city a safer place. We say this time and time again: if you see something, you have to say something,” Smith said, imploring the community to identify offenders and share information with police, according to 13WHAM. “We need to send a message that enough is enough, that we’re not going to tolerate this in our community anymore.”
On Nov. 9, five teens were shot in the city, all in drive-by shootings that occurred within 45 minutes, according to RPD Capt. Frank Umbrino. There is an alarming trend of youth violence developing in the city, he said in a Nov. 10 press conference.
“It mirrors the larger problem we’re having here in the city,” Umbrino said. He added that criminal justice reform is ineffective, with violent offenders being let out of jail on appearance tickets and then going back on the streets to commit more crimes.
“These kids don’t have any consequences. We’re arresting the same people over and over and over again,” Umbrino said. “That’s a problem.”
“It starts with stealing a candy bar. It escalates to stealing cars. These kids are not stealing cars to joyride … these kids are stealing cars … and they’re robbing and they’re shooting people.”
In May, the RPD budget was cut by $4.5 million while retaining all 726 officers.
“I want a police department that is truly focused on keeping our city safe,” Warren said at the time, according to Spectrum Local News. “Not one whose mission is divided by doing work better done by others. That’s why this budget invests our resources differently to RPD so RPD can be focused on reducing crime and violence.”