ANOTHER VIOLENT WEEKEND: NOT A WORD FROM CITY HALL? City Hall Looks the Other Way: No Plan, No Leadership

September 5, 2017 – This past Sunday, we saw the shooting death of one man and the shooting of three others in three separate instances. One family lost a loved one to murder, and another’s is now a murderer. Three neighborhoods suffered another long night of violence, sirens and tumult. Parents are trying to explain this horror to their children. Our city lost another citizen.

The street names are familiar:  Trenamen, Seabrook, Central, Lyell and Saratoga. The two people shot on Lyell Avenue were leaving a bar with a group of other people. The shooter didn’t care and fired on the group. The shooting on Seabrook Street happened at 9:30 at night, with families outside in the neighborhood.  Three houses were hit by gunfire.

Lately, these stories, homicides and shootings are reported and treated as a matter of fact by the media – as well as by this Mayor. What is Mayor Warren doing about this almost daily violence? Where’s the outrage?   Where’s the plan and the citizen engagement? Where is the leadership?

Lovely Warren refuses to even admit there is a violence issue. Last year, when homicides were up by 30 percent, she responded with silence, or worse, with happy news that overall crime was down – saying we are safe and getting safer. Ask folks on Trenaman, Saratoga, Central, Lyell and Seabrook if they are safe and getting safer.  We were told that the police reorganization would help solve this – instead, it has been rejected by both citizens and police.

A public survey done last year by our own Rochester Police Department showed that almost 75% of City residents felt less safe under this half implemented program and 8 of 10 police officers felt that they were less effective. And with crime rampant and arrests down by 12%, it’s no wonder they feel that way.

It breaks my heart to see what this lack of leadership is doing to our neighborhoods. Those on the front lines of day-to-day gunfire, shootings, stabbings and violence not only bear the brunt of this violence, they have received no respite, no help and have no hope that things will get any better.  Instead, we have press releases and public relations stunts like infrequent walks with clergy and 90 day community outreach plans when times get tough.

This will change under a Sheppard administration. On day one, we will begin to implement real crime reduction strategies and improve community/police trust, including:

  • Two additional RPD section offices by 2019, without delays or excuses;

  • A culture change in the RPD, “Policing in the Spirit of Service,” to improve police/community relations;

  • A “guardian,” not warrior, approach to policing;

  • A staffing overhire to ensure 100% coverage;

  • Coordinated use of all available county, state and federal law enforcement agencies;

  • Reestablishment of my “Chief on the Street” program;

  • Revised testing and hiring processes to identify and recruit people with key values and character traits and promotions for those who meet community standards.

Most importantly, there will be transparency in our law enforcement efforts. My administration will share quarterly crime statistics widely – however good or bad they may be. True leaders don’t flinch if there is bad news -- they get to work and solve the problem.

Finally, I will lead from the front, not the top. Those families and those neighborhoods that have been terrorized over the past few days deserve to have the Mayor’s full attention, and to know everything the Mayor plans to do to solve these crimes and end these tragedies.  That’s real leadership, and it’s what our City needs right now.

James Sheppard’s Statement Regarding Mayor’s Public Safety Announcements

This has been a busy week of headlines for the mayor's public relations efforts. She held a news conference to assert that Rochester is ‘safe and getter safer’. She shared crime statistics with the community, and released reports on her 90 days of community policing initiative and the RPD reorganization - both being touted as successes. I applaud the mayor's recent efforts to engage the community and evaluate the efficacy of the new RPD model. I welcome her to the conversation. Rochester has needed her voice and engagement these last four years. Whether it's downtown development, neighborhood revitalization, or public safety, we need a leader who will roll up their sleeves on day one and tackle the tough issues. It's not enough to make announcements and launch programs. The disproportionately poor and minority neighborhoods most impacted by violence are not impressed by press conferences. They need to see results. Waiting until the year of a reelection campaign to complete an assessment of the RPD's reorganization and police-community relations efforts is just the latest indication that our city is a pilotless ship.

James Sheppard Official Statement on RIT Study

"The RIT report documents that we have had high levels of violence over an extended period that we have struggled to address. 

This problem is deep and systemic, with connections rooted in poverty and a lack of educational opportunities and jobs. 

While our police are on the front lines, it's a problem that affects us all. 

I agree with  Professor Klofas' assessment that we need a comprehensive community anti violence strategy. This plan must include the voice and input of all community stakeholders working together to reduce the level of violence that has plagued the City of Rochester."

~James Sheppard

James Sheppard’s comment on RIT Homicide Study and City Hall reaction

First, to the 42 families who lost a loved one to homicide in Rochester last year, we grieve with you. This level of killings is the highest in six years and each and every one of us is diminished by each unnecessary and tragic death. 

Secondly, I was disappointed to hear the response from City Hall to the study - which also shows that if corrected for population, we are stride-for-stride with Chicago for homicides. This is unacceptable and not something to be dismissed. I am appalled by the Administration’s explanation that Rochester having more group killings has skewed the numbers. That's the message we want to send to those 42 families?  

This “spin” is in keeping with how this administration responds to all bad news -  by side-stepping and avoiding it.  

When's the last time this administration has stood up to acknowledge a homicide? A double homicide? A triple homicide? A quadruple homicide? A mother and daughter dying as a result of arson?  If you can't acknowledge a problem, you cannot solve it.

We have a homicide and violence problem in Rochester and as Mayor, I intend to own it, fight it and do everything in my power to solve it.