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Mayor ‘gratified not satisfied’ by declining Rochester gun violence


Mayor Malik Evans says he is “gratified but not satisfied” with a sustained drop in the number of shootings and homicides that started last year and is continuing in the first weeks of 2023.

“We have not arrived,” the mayor said. “We cannot celebrate. We cannot pop the champagne. But we can be gratified but not satisfied to continue to push.”

Even with the drop, the city remains well above pre-pandemic numbers when it comes to gun violence, records show. While robberies and property crimes continue to rise. Similar crime trends have been reported in cities nationwide.

But the downturn in gun violence after two years of marked increases was cause for applause this week as the mayor joined Gov. Kathy Hochul highlighting state investments and partnerships aimed at reducing the bloodshed.

“We're seeing the results in Rochester,” Evans said. “But we know that with violent crime, there's perception. And there's reality, and we are battling against both.”

Here are the numbers:

  • Shootings were down 13% last year but are up 90% from 2019. 
  • Homicides were down 10% last year but are up 130% from 2019. 
  • Aggravated assaults were down 13% but still up slightly over 2019 numbers. 
  • Robberies were up 5% year over year and up 10% over the past three years. 

The decline in shootings and shooting victims is even more dramatic so far this year, while homicides have remained constant.

Rochester police continue to battle staffing issues and the department is down about 70 authorized positions. That number is conservative as about 20 officers are in the academy and won’t complete training until the end of the summer.

“This is a culmination of years of systemic disinvestment in our neighborhoods,” said state Sen. Jeremy Cooney, D-Rochester.

He went on to decry the lack of opportunities, lost generational wealth for Black and brown people, an “underperforming” city school system and disparities in physical and mental health care access in communities of color.

“But we can't let these realities justify violence,” Cooney said. “Just as much as we can't let data hide the realities of fear. Because the neighborhoods that I represent, public safety isn't a data point. It's a feeling. And when you feel safe, you feel safe. And when you don't, you don't.”

There was a time when the city was looking at shrinking the police force and “reimagining” policing. There is still a push for an integrated approach of prevention, intervention and suppression. But instead of fewer officers, city police are looking to get a second academy class started in the next month or two – and Hochul is pushing to double the number of recruit classes for State Police.

“To bring down crime once and for all, we need to invest in programs that stop gun violence,” Hochul said. “We need to put more police on the streets. We need to invest in mental health.”

From the audience, housing advocates with the City-wide Tenants Union shouted to Hochul about the need for affordable housing and eviction protections.

“I believe that a multifaceted approach is necessary,” the governor said. “Over time, we'll keep making a difference. But for now, my focus is on simply keeping New Yorkers safe and secure.”

Brian Sharp is WXXI's business and development reporter. He has been covering Rochester since 2005, working most of that time as an investigative reporter with the Democrat and Chronicle. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.