Sheriff convenes dozens of community leaders to push for change to criminal justice system

Public safety consortium aims for criminal justice change

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As the state Legislature prepares to head back to Albany for a new legislative session, a group of local law enforcers, business and religious leaders, crime victims, medical doctors and community leaders are asking it to consider new laws that it feels will better protect our communities.   

Luvene Ford is the president of the Keeler Park Tenants Association. She says people who live in her complex generally feel safe on the property but when they try to walk across the street to the Hudson Avenue Walmart or next-door to Delta Sonic, things get dicey.

“They don’t feel safe once they leave the property, they’re afraid of being mugged, they’re afraid of someone snatching their purse, they’re afraid of multiple things and that is a shame, it’s like in the atmosphere,” she tells News10NBC. 

Dan Matteo owns a handful of buildings in downtown Rochester. “We’ve had people being approached in the parking lot and we’ve had cars stolen from the parking lot,” he tells News10NBC, “we had a couple different break-ins, people stealing tools, stealing building materials.”

It hasn’t driven any of Matteo’s tenants out yet, but he’s afraid it could.

“There’s two economic impacts, really — there’s the perception that downtown is unsafe and then there’s actually the real crimes that actually happen, which is stolen cars or stealing from various different businesses,” he says.

Both Ford and Matteo are part of a group known locally as the “Consortium for Safe Communities.”  Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter leads it.

“Really, we’re just getting everyone in a room from different stakeholders to say what do you see, what do you feel and then how do we get that information to our legislators,” Baxter says.

Sheriff Baxter says he’s hoping there is power in numbers. “I’ve been to the Governor’s office multiple times, I’ve been to every legislator in Monroe County that represents us in Albany, to their office in Albany and to their office here — great meetings but no production, nothing produced,” he tells News10NBC. 

The Consortium doesn’t want an overhaul of the criminal justice reforms that went into effect a few years ago, “if you’re running a business, you wouldn’t run it like this,” Baxter says. “You’d make some on-the-spot corrections to things that could be better. That’s all, that’s all we’re asking for.”

One of the main priorities: “I can’t be any clearer, a repeat offender standard,” Baxter says. “If you’re out there committing crime after crime after crime, after a certain amount of time, you need to take a time out, that’s what my father called it.  Sit down, think about what you’re doing and then let’s work on you, let’s not keep you in the corner all day long, let’s work with you. What’s individually going on in your life, what’s going on in your family’s life?”

Click here for more information about the Consortium for Safe Communities.