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Crime and gun violence reduction efforts credited for drop in Rochester homicide rate in 2017

Jan 2, 2018

Rochester Police Chief Michael Ciminelli
Credit cityofrochester.gov

Both law enforcement leaders and researchers who study crime say a number of crime and gun violence prevention efforts are starting to pay off in Rochester.

Unofficially, there were 29 homicides recorded by the Rochester Police Department in 2017.  That's a more than 30 percent decrease from 2016 when 42 homicides were reported.

"Any time this number is down, we're gratified because you have to bear in mind that this involves a victim, a victim's family, and, in a number of cases where we have made an arrest, an offender and an offender's family,” said Rochester Police Chief Michael Ciminelli. “There is a tremendous ripple effect in these cases and there are human beings behind these numbers."

Two of the 29 people RPD says died by homicide last year were the victims of crimes that occurred in 2016. The FBI calculates homicides according to the year in which the person died.

John Klofas, director of the Center for Public Safety Initiatives at RIT, said the decrease in homicides last year is especially significant when you consider that the rate of overall shootings has dropped in recent years.

"These are low numbers and statistically they become very unstable, so a shift of this magnitude is pretty serious. One would expect around a 20 percent change to be ordinary. Now there seems to be a much stronger link to things going on in the community to reduce serious violence and these outcomes. It was more difficult, I think, to make that case in the past."

Both Klofas and Ciminelli point to initiatives they believe have made a difference.  They include a state-funded gun violence elimination program, a new city gun court, and a program called Swift Certain and Fair, which uses small, predictable penalties for probation violations.

"We're doing so many different things as part of our violence strategy that it may be hard, if not impossible, to figure out which initiatives more than others, is having an impact,” Ciminelli said. “It may be a combination of all of them."

One of Ciminelli’s goals for 2018, he said, is to find different and better ways for his department to communicate with the community.

"We don't only want to improve our service, and improve public safety and reduce crime, we want to people to believe that we're doing it, too. And frankly, we need to be transparent about where we need to improve."

The official crime data for 2017 will be released in several months.