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City announces new crisis unit for gun violence, mental health calls

Sep 16, 2020

City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot at a Council meeting last fall. Lightfoot announced the creation of a crisis intervention service unit on Wednesday.
Credit James Brown / WXXI News

On Wednesday, city officials announced an initiative to improve the community response to gun violence and health crises in Rochester.

City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot said he’s been working on the crisis intervention services unit for a year and a half. But since the death of Daniel Prude, it’s become even more pressing.

In March, Daniel Prude’s family had contacted police out of concern for his mental well-being. He was suffocated in police custody and died one week later.

"As a result of that, we start hearing the calls for a different response," Lightfoot said at a news conference. "Not a police response, but a more sensitive response, for social workers and other individuals to respond to these types of calls."

Lightfoot said although the city already has programs and services like this in place, they may be antiquated, or disconnected from the community.

This unit would be located in the former SUNY Brockport School of Social Work across from the transit center downtown. It would include two teams -- one for gun violence response, and one for mental health crises and domestic violence calls. And both would be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Lightfoot was joined by Danielle Lyman Torres, commissioner of Department of Recreation and Youth Services.

She said that if this unit had been in place in March, it would have responded to calls about Prude.