Duffy’s warning to state leaders: ‘I have never seen the issues of crime and public safety be as bad as they are today’

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — In a letter full of urgency, Bob Duffy is warning state leaders, including the governor, that legislative decisions have put public safety in peril.

He writes, “I have never seen the issues of crime and public safety be as bad as they are today.”

Duffy is CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. He is the former chief of the Rochester Police Department, former Rochester mayor, and former lieutenant governor of New York.

His letter was written on July 25, 2022, four days after the murder of RPD Officer Tony Mazurkiewicz. Duffy wrote to Gov. Kathy Hochul, Speaker Carl Heastie, and Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins about the “need for stronger policies and leadership to address the lawlessness that is prevalent in so many of our communities today.”

News10NBC chief investigative reporter Berkeley Brean obtained the letter Wednesday. Duffy was unavailable to comment on what he wrote.

In the letter, Duffy says he supports bail reform because the previous system was criminalizing poverty and keeping people in jail only because they could not afford the bail they faced.

However, “robberies, assaults, carjackings and illegal gun possessions plague our streets every day and the perpetrators are being met with appearance tickets. It is commonplace for these individuals to be arrested, booked and released on an appearance ticket, only to re-offend after which the same process ensues,” Duffy writes.

Duffy goes on to say that the issue of bail reform has become “political foil” for campaigns this year, but “the fact remains that something must be done to revisit and change those policies that are costing lives and creating havoc in our most challenged communities.”

News10NBC is currently tracking cases in Rochester City Court to see what cases get bail and for how much.

The morning after the murder of Officer Mazurkiwwicz, Rochester City Councilmember Michael Patterson demanded a state law that would allow judges to consider whether a defendant is a danger to the community when they consider bail. In his letter, Duffy tells the top three elected state leaders that there should be a “dangerousness clause” when it comes to bail reform.

“We are creating an environment where there are no consequences for unruly behavior,” Duffy wrote. “This does not work in families, and it certainly does not work in our communities.”

Duffy asks the speaker, senate president, and governor to convene a conference with mayors, county executives, police, judges, victim advocates, and reform advocates and “begin a process to keep what is working and change what is not.”

News10NBC contacted the offices of the governor, speaker, and senate president. We asked what, if anything, they have done to address the public safety concerns in the greater Rochester area since July 25.

Since Duffy wrote his letter, RPD data shows there have been 22 homicides and 86 shootings in Rochester.

In his letter, Duffy brings up the murder of 14-year-old Julius Greer Jr. He was killed as he walked to his neighborhood corner store to buy food for dinner. Shot on Jan. 2, 2022, Greer was the first murder victim in Rochester this year. RPD has not arrested anyone in his killing.

Duffy also mentions that Rochester homes are shot up “on a routine basis” including a time in July in which 50 rounds were fired.

And he talks about the murder of Officer Mazurkiewicz, who “was executed while working on solving a previous homicide.”

Duffy tells fellow Democrats Hochul, Heastie and Stewart-Cousins that “we own this situation.”

Safe communities with strong police-community relations are possible, Duffy adds. “Instead, we have demoralized law enforcement for the inappropriate actions of a few and created more divisions than I have seen in my entire life.”

Duffy says the public is fed up.

“People are clamoring for a change with public safety,” he writes.

Duffy writes, “The anger out here is palpable, and it is due to all sides digging on their positions as opposed to coming together and forging a path that works for everyone.”

Duffy goes on to tell the leaders that if they call a special session of the legislature on public safety, listen to people, debate, compromise and act, “you would be performing a great public service.”

No special session has been called since July 25.

Duffy adds that he is willing to help if called upon, but closes with this warning: “I cannot reinforce enough how important and urgent this is.”

At 4:57 p.m. Wednesday we received this statement from Gov. Hochul’s press office:

“Governor Hochul’s top priority is to keep New Yorkers safe, which is why she worked with the legislature earlier this year to crack down on gun crimes and repeat offenders and further expand the types of cases where judges have the discretion to set bail. Since July, the Governor has convened multiple meetings with local elected officials, community leaders, as well as many local, state and federal law enforcement entities to urgently facilitate collaboration and ensure all levels are working in concert to combat crime and violence in Rochester and Monroe County. The Governor will continue to work every day with law enforcement and local officials to improve the criminal justice system, combat violence, and strengthen public safety across New York.”

The governor’s press office also said Gov. Hochul had a meeting July 29 to talk about public safety in Rochester with Mayor Malik Evans, RPD Chief David Smith, County Executive Adam Bello, Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter, US Attorney for the Western District of NY Trini Ross, representatives from the FBI and the ATF, and former Lt. Governor Bob Duffy.

The governor’s office says there was a second meeting Aug. 23.

The governor’s office provided this link that shows the progression of gun violence in GIVE (Gun Involved Violence Elimination Initiative) jurisdictions. Rochester is on page 16.

The governor’s office also provided the following budget data:

  • $2,039,755 through GIVE, shared by the Rochester P.D. and DA, Sheriff and Probation in Monroe County; this is $250,000 more than last year (funding cycle runs from July 1 through June 30).
  • $2,081,464 for the SNUG Street Outreach program.
  • $1,365,615 just announced for pretrial services.
  • Monroe County is home to one of the 10 Crime Analysis Centers supported by DCJS in partnership with local law enforcement and the Governor secured a $15 million dedicated funding stream for these centers in the FY23 budget.
  • This does not include other funding the county receives through state “aid to” programs for prosecution, probation, crime lab and defense services.

You can read the full letter here: