Gun violence and theft remain top public safety concerns in 2023

Gun Violence and Theft

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – While there have been fewer murders in 2023, the number of people getting shot in our community is still high. Trauma doctors are exhausted, police are struggling to keep up and non-profits trying to help, are taxed. 

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke sat down with Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter to talk about how gun violence and theft have impacted our community over the last year. 

While the number of homicides has gone down in Monroe County compared to the last few years, there are still hundreds of victims of violent crime, people who’ve had their lives changed in an instant over the last year. 

“Each one of those other 400 shooting victims was an inch away from a murder,” says Sheriff Todd Baxter. “When we say in the community, he survived, he survived with a wheelchair, he survived with a colostomy bag, he survived with a traumatic brain injury.”

It’s something that has become taxing on emergency room doctors as well. Late last year, the chief trauma surgeon at Strong Hospital told News10NBC how even the physical injuries are different than they used to be.

“The number of bullets has exponentially gone up, so, instead of being shot with two or three or four bullets, people are being shot with five or six or seven,” says Dr. Mark Gestring. “And overwhelmingly, the majority of patients, the victims, do not want to get involved with law enforcement, they for whatever reason, whether it’s a cultural divide but many times they’re just like I survived this gunshot wound, I don’t need the possibility of reprisal, I don’t need people to know my name beyond the ones who already know it.”

The same is true today which is frustrating to Sheriff Baxter and others tasked with public safety.

“Who, in America, should be going to bed wondering if your kid is going to be shot overnight by a drive-by, that’s just absurd,” Sheriff Baxter says.

The other category of crime that skyrocketed in 2023, “4,000 stolen vehicles in our community this year, there’s 4,000 victims, 4,000 individuals going what the hell, I didn’t do anything, I just went to bed and my car is gone,” Sheriff Baxter says.

In many cases, the cars are eventually found but ransacked and damaged.

There are a number of programs in place to try and reach some of the people who are stealing and carrying guns, to offer them a different path. 

This was the first full year of the City of Rochester’s Peacemaker Fellowship Program which connects those who’ve already been involved in shootings with resources, travel and monthly stipends to put down their guns. A dozen men graduated from the first cohort, a dozen more are participating in the second class. The city will do a full evaluation of the program soon to see whether it should be renewed or expanded.