Rochester, N.Y.- On Tuesday night, in a crowded room at the Fredrick Douglass Resource Center on King Street, dozens of community leaders and residents in the city’s southwest quadrant brainstormed ideas that could help the Rochester Police Department combat some of the city’s biggest crime problems.
This event was the first of a four-part series— a community forum called “Voice of the Citizen”- Seeking Solutions to Violence.
During the forum, Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard made a presentation about the latest crime statistics in Rochester. He said that while violent crime is down, he wants to gather ideas from the people who live in the neighborhoods where these crimes occur.
“There was a period of time in the summer where we were dealing with a lot of violence,” Sheppard said. “We felt that it was very important that one we reach out to the community in terms of what are doing about it. Let them know the statistics, where we are and try to get some help in terms of what we're doing.”
After Sheppard’s presentation, residents broke up into smaller groups to discuss four broad violent crime topics. The topics were: open-air drug sales and gate houses; gangs, guns and the culture of violence; bullying and truancy; and house parties.
Attendees made suggestions on how RPD could address these problems, what improvements should be made and gave their own perspective on these issues.
“Hopefully [their suggestions are] stuff we can have come into play,” said Sheppard. “Whether it's how we're set up geographically as a police department or what strategies we have in place. Whether we walk in beats. Whether we're engaging people. I think it's important we hear what [residents] want so that if it's worth doing, we do it.”
These types of forums were used by the city of Rochester earlier this year when drafting up the city’s budget. Mayor Tom Richards said it was a successful stratregy that he felt could also help the police department.
“This way everyone gets a chance to talk in an environment that’s comfortable and there is an interchange, a back and forth,” he said. “You don't have to have people get up and talk in front of everyone. We think it's a better way for people to express themselves.”
There are three more forums scheduled through February:
- Northeast: Tuesday, Jan. 15. Carter Street Community Center, 500 Carter St.
- Northwest: Tuesday, Jan. 29. Edgerton Stardust Ballroom, 41 Backus St.
- Southeast: Tuesday, Feb. 5. Cobbs Hill Park, Lake Riley Lodge, 100 Norris Drive