The 19th Ward is a diverse, historic part of our city. But there is a very serious issue that is not being acceptably addressed. For those who are on Facebook, there is a group called 19th Ward Crime Alert. If you are in that group, as I am, you would think that area of the city is a lawless wasteland as there are daily posts of suspicious people, break-ins and more. A friend of mine who lives on Westfield Street was over this weekend. I got to hear story after story of neighbors who have had break-ins and what they've been trying to do to combat this. He is thinking about buying a gun for the first time in his life, and few people actually call the police because they don't see what it will do.
Daniel DeMarle, a prominent resident of the district and the Facebook group creator and moderator made some good points in a post today. He said that while the number of members of the group has increased tremendously lately, that will bring more posts about crime therefore there may not be an increase in crime. While true, there are still a lot of posts on the FB group.
I've been to the Police Citizens Interactive Committee (PCIC) meetings for the area and I know RPD has enough statistics to make your eyes glaze over. The numbers do not mean a lot to me. I can tell by the voice of the people who live there that what is going on in the 19th Ward is not acceptable.
In general, people who live there are calling for more police. They want this taken care of right now - understandably. It's the same as someone who is homeless not caring about mixed-use development for economic growth. They need somewhere to live today and people in the 19th Ward need protection...today.
I'm OK with an immediate increase in police presence, but that is not a permanent solution. First of all, it's not fiscally responsible and second, like those expensive, ineffective blue light cameras, more police will just push crime to other parts of the city. That's great for those in the 19th Ward, but as stewards of the entire city, City Hall can't use more police and cameras as a long-term solution. In fact there is no one solution and that's what our current leadership does not seem to understand.
Read on to see how a Green Rochester government would deal with crime in the 19th Ward.
I am OK with increasing the police presence in the 19th Ward, but with a caveat. There needs to be better supervision of the police on the street. There are good policemen in the Rochester Police Department. But there is also a cancerous element within RPD who are terrorizing neighborhoods of color in our city. The Chief will not publicly acknowledge it (more on this in another blog post) nor will he do anything about it. Right now, citizens of the 19th Ward are saying to themselves, "don't call the police, they won't show up." Increasing police presence could turn into what they say on Jefferson Avenue, "don't call the police, they'll end up beating and arresting ME!" So an increased police presence is OK with more, and better, supervision.
The second thing that can be done is a revamped neighborhood watch / Pac-Tac. At the beginning of this month we had our National Night Out activities, which was fine, but Justice for Families did a great job of taking that initiative and giving it a community-friendly twist. Neighborhood Watch became "I don’t watch my neighbors, I see them. We make our community safer together." It's a more outgoing, community-oriented way of people looking out for each other.
This just doesn't go for the 19th Ward. What is below is for the entire city. We have to start spending our money (which means taxing fairly to gain the revenue) on things that do not just benefit those who have. I like to call it trickle-up humanism.
We have to start with completely eliminating lead poisoning in the City of Rochester. I've been a member of the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning. I understand what completely eliminating would mean in terms of cost and effort. It's worth it. One child who is permanently damaged due to lead can create chaos in a neighborhood and likely will end up in jail, thus causing more expense to the community. I've taught students with lead poisoning. It's not only a human rights issue, but it will prevent crime in our city.
We also have to acknowledge that there are a number of families in our community that are broken. The reason for this are many, but if we do not address this issue then we will continue to face violence in Rochester. Gangs are an issue in this City, but trying to deal with them by using the police department is like trying to teach your kid not to get into fights by giving him a whipping. It doesn't work. There needs to be an all out effort to provide mentors to all of our kids. This can't just be done by non-profits. Our government, our leaders, need to lead the charge to make sure that every child has an adult in their lives to show them the way. I called for this when I ran for School Board ten years ago and it's even more necessary now.
The last piece to this puzzle is the most complex. But at the same time, it gives us the most room to be creative. Many books and articles have been published on this issue so by no means would I dare to say that this short blog post would be the final word. But we MUST begin to address the inequality and abject poverty we have in this city. Downtown condos, marinas and theaters are doing absolutely nothing for our people who need economic development the most. The giving away of our tax dollars to out-of-town developers for projects over people is morally bankrupt.
The members of our current government, the Mayor and the members of City Council, wring their hands over poverty while continuing to shove project after project down our throats. It's not working. It hasn't been working for decades and there needs to be a change.
As the political season progresses, you'll see more and more examples of what a Green government in Rochester would spend our tax dollars on - actually, if you've seen our blogs, Livestream broadcasts, podcasts and more, you know that we've already been discussing what we would do to deal with poverty, which would almost eliminate crime.
Let us know what YOU think!
I realize a certain someone made this a bad word…but give people hope that there IS a future and they will invest themselves in the community they live in. That’s why focusing on downtown business and entertainment as the sole creator of jobs in the city is an extremely bad idea.
The Green Rochester vision of economic development will bring hope back into the communities in our city that desperately need it.
What a well thought out response to the issues at hand. The thing I admire most about you IS the fact that you got where you are through hard work, no programs, no handouts and no excuses. The RPD definitely has its hands full and anything that involves people will never be perfect.
We DO need mentors for children and usually you would find the mentor in the parents. Here in lies the problem. No easy answers here. Unfortunately our society, not just Rochester, has a pervasive problem with children born to children, or at the very least, to those not ready to take parenting seriously.
I agree that poverty does not have to go hand-in-hand with crime. If this were true, the whole country would have gone up in smoke during the great depression.
We need opportunity, we need children born to mentors, we need no excuses for our behavior. And we need many, many, more grassroots conversations like this one. Thank you for the platform.
While I do agree with the idea that social and cultural reactions to poverty can result in crime (and who wouldn’t … it’s clearly presented in reams of scientific evidence) I do not prescribe to the idea that “throwing money at people” is helpful. I make a very good salary, but grew up in poverty that many people in the City cannot understand – we didn’t have “programs” to help us. We did not have this level of crime in our community because we wouldn’t put up with it.
In fact, the idea that people in poverty hold a higher level of criminal behavior is foreign to me: I didn’t see that at all until I moved here in Rochester – on Weldon St, right in the 19th Ward. In my rural community, if you committed a crime, you were arrested and punished to the full extent of the law. In Rochester, this is often called “bullying”, “unfair and unjust”, “targeted” … And when cops are literally shot in the back of the head for “disrespecting” a young criminal by taking them home to their parents, they have to look out for themselves and they have to be tough. Which is why I defended the RPD when Emily Good refused to move away from the officers. They can’t trust anyone, even a young girl who is doing her part in activism against the few bad apples that exist in our police system. And that’s very sad.
I’m not excusing the officers who demonstrate clearly racist behaviors. I’ve reported drug traffic to officers who were floored that “they weren’t Black”. I know it’s out there. But I’m also tired of people complaining that strict enforcement means “targeting”. I’ve driven behind more cars than I can count, tasting the smell of weed pluming out the windows, right here on Chili Ave. I’ve had friends listening to fights in front of their homes where one has threatened to shoot the other – in the now. I’m sick of hands being tied. I don’t have the answers, but I’m pretty sure added money in their pockets isn’t going to prevent that behavior.
We need to feel confident we can police our own space, feel confident the police will be there when we need them, and have opportunities (not handouts). We need more officers on the ground to tell the criminals, “this isn’t where you want to be”. And a culture that doesn’t promote and excuse this criminal behavior, but instead promotes one’s own success through hard work given opportunity. It’s one of two areas I consider myself conservative.
If people want money, they need jobs. The Green Party has had some great ideas on how to create them. But when we have businesses getting handouts in the areas surrounding us, it’s hard to expect them to come downtown with all of the problems we’re experiencing and pay something to do it. Many of these businesses create jobs. And many don’t. Heavy taxation isn’t going to attract anyone, but no taxation won’t afford the options we need to provide opportunity.
(None of this is meant to excuse the failed policies of existing government, but to provide what some constructive criticism in where I see a
The current projects all across the city don’t address the needs of people living and struggling in the city. We need to focus on the people who are living and working here and have been here and want to continue to be here for the long term.