RIT study looks at ongoing crime issues in Rochester

Feb 14, 2017

Credit PBS.org

A new study on crime rates in Rochester says that the city has had a serious violence problem for nearly 50 years.

The report was compiled by RIT’s Center for Public Safety Initiatives. Its director, Professor John Klofas says the city had 42 homicides reported last year, compared to 33 the year before.

He says the rate of homicides in Rochester really wasn’t all that much lower, when population is taken into account, than Chicago. But Klofas says with Chicago being a major city with a lot of media coverage, its crime problem naturally gets more attention. He says other upstate cities, including Syracuse, also saw similar homicide rates.

As far as factors behind the violent crime is concerned, Klofas says there are external forces that are mentioned frequently in recent years.

“I think it’s really caught the idea of people interested in poverty and employment, those things, I think, all have effects; they don’t explain any individual case very well, but I think they tend to contribute to the explanation of overall trends.”

The RIT report says that the uniformity in the homicide rate over a nearly 50 year period means that no particular city administration or law enforcement agency has fared better or worse.

The study also suggests that a significant community-wide plan is needed to address the escalating violence.

On Tuesday evening, Mayor Lovely Warren released this statement in response to the RIT report:

"Today’s report regarding Rochester’s homicide rate lacks important context and does an incredible disservice to the men and women of the Rochester Police Department and the citizens of this great city. To compare homicide numbers in isolation paints an inaccurate picture of the nature of violent crime in our city because it fails to account for a range of factors. For instance, in 2016 Rochester experienced the highest number of multiple-victim homicides in recent years, which accounted for nine of the 42 victims. To strip this trend from the analysis creates the false impression that the number of incidents of violent crime are rising when in fact they are falling.  This is evidenced by the fact that shootings in 2016 declined by more than 20 percent, which was a key point of the RPD’s focus over the last year and is an incredible accomplishment in our efforts to reverse the culture of violence that has plagued our streets for more than five decades.

I am extremely proud of the progress made by the Rochester Police Department over the past three years, particularly in their efforts to engage the citizens of Rochester in the effort to reduce violence. We are nowhere near where we want to be, but I remain convinced we are on the right track. I wish the report presented a more accurate reflection of the great work of Chief Ciminelli and the RPD team."