ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The City of Rochester is launching a coordinated effort aimed at reducing violent crime. Leaders announced the initiative on Tuesday, saying it will give the community a greater role in public safety.
Mayor Lovely Warren is launching the Office Neighborhood Safety (ONS) to coordinate community violence reduction efforts.
“What we realized is that we needed a neighborhood office led by the City Office of Neighborhood Safety, led by the City, to coordinate all the different efforts across the city," Warren said.
The ONS will be part of the Department of Recreation and Human Services.
“The Office of Neighborhood Safety is a community-based, civilian-led public safety framework which has been used effectively to decrease violence," commissioner of the department Daniele Lyman-Torres said.
The mayor is taking a page out of the book used in Newark, New Jersey and Richmond, California – which have seen decreases in violent crimes with a similar program.
“We have a problem Rochester,” Rochester City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot said. “But we have to come together collectively to be a part of the solution and this problem is so big, it’s so systemic and structural that it needs and deserves a dedicated office that spends time around the clock just working on violent prevention initiatives. Today is that day. Today is that day."
“This office will shift focus, resources, and efforts to a community-based, civilian-led strategy and coordinated system," Lyman-Torres said.
The plan is being celebrated by some.
“We can’t do it by ourselves, we need everybody to do their part," Wanda Ridgeway of Rise Up Rochester said.
“Today is a blessing," Sirena Cotton of ROC the Peace said.
Not everyone is convinced this is the answer.
“This is just political jargon,” Robert Hill of Rochester said. “I believe a difference it will make, but it will only make a difference if they get the community involved.”
The goal is to hire a coordinator this month and include the ONS in the city’s upcoming 2021-22 budget in July to move the program forward with a task force.
A city spokesperson says the Office of Neighborhood Safety is estimated to cost about a half a million dollars annually; potentially funded from cuts to the budget of the Rochester Police Department.
“I’ve been consistent. I told you the day that I accepted this job that I don’t see this as a police matter, it’s a community matter and that we have to work together,” Rochester Interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said. “I’m happy to see this initiative. We’re gonna do our part as partners.”
Warren said while Rochester has implemented many efforts to curb violence, this is one she wants to begin here because it has worked elsewhere.
“Our goal is to do everything possible to save as many lives as possible in our community,” Warren said.