2,000 people sign letter asking state lawmakers for public safety measures

2,000 people call for state to make public-safety policy changes

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The New York State Legislature is back in session in Albany, and thousands of people in our area are hoping public safety is at the top of the agenda. Nearly 2,000 people and dozens of community leaders have signed on to a letter asking for changes that they feel will cut down on the number of shootings and make our area safer. The Consortium for Safer Communities sent the letter to state leaders this week. 

In addition to the 58 people killed in the City of Rochester in 2023, 260 people were treated for gunshot or stab wounds.

“We see all kinds of gunshots — some are innocent victims caught in the crossfire, some of them are being robbed or something like that, others are people who are living a life that they really shouldn’t be living and for us, one of the first things we need to figure out is which bullet on the X-ray is new and which one is old, so it can really run the full gamut,” says Dr. Mark Gestring, the director of the Kessler Trauma Center at URMC. 

Even when a victim survives, often times their life is changed forever.  Dr. Gestring and his team of trauma surgeons see that first-hand. “It’s kind of soul crushing work after a while when you realize much of this is preventable, much of this didn’t need to happen,” he tells News10NBC. 

Rev. Benjamin Cox knows the feeling. “Pastors and ministers, we spend about 20% of our time during the course of a year, at gravesites, burying children through gun violence,” he says.  Then, they have to help those who are left behind. “They’re fearful, they feel like there’s been a loss of the vitality of the community and waking up one morning and just finding that their world is turned around,” Rev. Cox explains.   

The cycle of violence, Rev. Cox believes, can be broken. “If you talk to them long enough, they’ll begin to unfold and say what it is that they need but we have to get them there,” he says. “My grandfather used to say, in order to clean a fish, you have to catch them.”

That’s why the reverend and the doctor are part of the Consortium for Safer Communities, a group put together by Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter of community leaders, business owners, crime victims, neighborhood associations, prosecutors, and regular people pushing state lawmakers for some changes. 

Here’s what they want:

– Risk of Public Safety Standard, which would allow judges to detain individuals when they pose a threat to the community and release them once the danger is mitigated.

-Repeat Offender Standard, which would allow judges to immediately detain individuals re-arrested while out on appearance tickets or their own recognizance; subject to judicial review within 144 hours (160 on weekends).

– Review and draft “Clean Law” to uphold the positive intentions of bail reform while safeguarding constituents from individuals who persist in criminal activities. The law should be easily understood by the entire community and those directly involved, including judges, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims, and defendants.

-Opposition for Elder Parole Legislation – currently in committees in both houses, this legislation would provide parole hearings for people older than 55 who have served at least 15 years of their sentence.   

For more information: The Consortium for Safe Communities