In neighborhood where 12-year-old was shot, community leader says, “The gangs have taken over”

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The shooting of a 12-year-old girl, a 16-year-old girl and a 20-year-old man happened in a Rochester Housing Authority townhouse complex a mile north of downtown.

In the neighborhood, we found grandparents who are scared for their grandchildren.

“Can you believe the number of young people getting shot? Another 12-year-old,” I said to one of the homeowners named Mercedes.

“It’s awful. And I have an eight, 10 and 13 that come here. They love to come spend time with me, she said. “Maybe their parents are not going to let them come anymore because they’re going to be scared.”

The women who live here asked that we not show their faces out of concern for their safety. They’re as scared for themselves as much as they are for their grandchildren. I spoke to them alongside Mercedes Vasquez-Simmons, their representative in Monroe County.

“She says she wants to see that the gangs get taken apart,” Vasquez-Simmons said translating for one of the tenants.

“Pandillas,” the tenant said.

Vasquez-Simmons went door-to-door in the neighborhood handing out fliers for the Latino Youth Development Center, which she runs about three blocks away on Clinton Avenue.

Brean: “It wasn’t that you and I spoke for a story on what it’s like to be a child in Rochester then, and since we spoke, since that story went on the air, we’ve had two 12-year-olds shot, one of them murdered. What the heck is going on?”

Mercedes Vasquez-Simmons, Latino Youth Development Center: “Again I think we’ve reached a certain level where there isn’t respect for life. You know, kids were off limits. Elderly people were off limits. Now there are no limits. It’s anything can go in this city because now the gangs have taken over.”

Through her work at the Youth Development Center and as a county lawmaker, Vasquez-Simmons says she believes gangs are recruiting children and young people from out of town.

Vasquez-Simmons: “So when we have that level of carelessness, there isn’t a respect for life. So we have to change the dynamics of how we handle this and it has to be zero tolerance.”

Brean: “What does that mean?”

Vasquez-Simmons: “It’s doing everything possible. I mean I was an advocate of bringing in the National Guard and I don’t know what it will take, but I think we’re there.”