During remarks at the city’s violence prevention summit at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center on Thursday, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren made her goal clear.
“We want to change violence in the city of Rochester permanently,” she said. “We don’t want this to be a one- or two-year thing. We want this to be a consistent reduction of violence in the city of Rochester until we no longer have violence in the city of Rochester.”
As of Thursday, Rochester Police data shows there have been 237 shooting incidents in the city so far this year. There have been 40 homicides in the city in 2021; 69% were gun deaths. Over the last 10 years, Rochester has averaged 33 homicides a year.
Warren didn’t address the felony gun charge that she and her estranged husband, Timothy Granison, were indicted on this month. Two illegal guns were found at her house in May. While the event was open to the media, Warren did not take off-topic questions.
City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot, who chairs the council's public safety committee, sat on one of the summit's panels. He said Thursday that this spike likely comes from emotional distress caused by a combination of social unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of hope has been lost, and people are just in a very different mental state,” he said. “The trauma that comes from all these things are just unbearable.”
As part of the city’s violence reduction strategy, Warren said she instructed her team to seek counsel from local and national experts on slowing urban crime, like DeVone Boggan. He leads an organization based in Riverside, California, called Advance Peace. His work in various cities has led to decreased gun violence by going to the source: active firearms offenders.
“What we’re talking about here, folks, is creating a dedicated space for the type of folks that rarely get that kind of focus,” Boggan said. “We must have alternative opportunities in place, to help them change their mindsets and behaviors on their own.”
Boggan said police play a vital role, but they’re not good at developing residents. Where his program worked, Boggan said, nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations played a big role.
“We need stakeholders to understand that this is not an event, this is a process," Boggan said. "This epidemic did not happen overnight, and it will not happen tomorrow that all this stuff changes because of goodwill.”
He said nonprofits and other groups should hire firearms offenders and help them turn around their lives. He also said their connections can stop the violence.