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Downtown Rochester crime myths, Round 2 

Just how safe is downtown Rochester?

On the heels of my recent diatribe about downtown safety, some CITY readers have pushed back. One suggested that because some people in the suburbs define “downtown” as the entire city, and because some city neighborhoods have a high crime rate, therefore downtown isn’t safe.

It’s hard to know how to respond to that reasoning. But I do have a response to readers who asked that I show the crime statistics. And let’s start by defining “downtown” as being the landmass within the Inner Loop (and Alexander Street on the east) – a generally accepted definition, though you could certainly extend it a few blocks.

The Rochester Police Department has a cool online map showing crimes that have taken place in the city for the past several months. You can filter the data by neighborhood and type of crime. And you can get a bit of information about each crime.

From February 26 through August 25, 2016 (the period available on the RPD’s map when I looked), there were seven robberies, nine assaults, and two homicides downtown.

Of those nine assaults, one was by a family member, and four more were by other people the victim knew. In one case, that information wasn’t listed on the RPD map. So either three or four assaults were by strangers.

Of the two homicides, one was by a family member, one was by a person the victim apparently didn’t know. (That second homicide took place at the same time – in the middle of the night – and at the same place as two of the assaults, and one of the assault victims knew the assailant. A fight? The RPD map doesn’t provide further information.)

I’ve tried to find data that would show apples-to-apples comparisons with crimes in the surrounding suburbs, but so far, I haven’t been able to. I can find comparisons with the entire city and the suburbs, but not data restricting the city statistics to downtown Rochester.

The latest suburban statistics
, which come from the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, are from 2015. Since the data on the RPD’s Crime Mapping site is from late February through last week, I can’t make year-to-year comparisons.

However, idly curious readers may find some of the 2015 stats interesting. For instance: the Town of Gates had three homicides in 2015 and 38 aggravated assaults. The Town of Greece had 89.

So if we wanted to draw some loose, unfounded, and unfair conclusions, we could say that unless downtown has a big uptick in the last few months of this year, Gates and Greece will have been more dangerous in 2015 than downtown Rochester is in 2016.

What about Pittsford, Penfield, and some of the other suburbs? Dunno. They don’t have their own police department, so they’re served by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, which dealt with two murders and 114 aggravated assaults in the suburbs in 2015. (And, by the way, city taxpayers helped pay for that service through our county taxes. But I digress.)

What can we conclude from all this? Not much. Greece and Gates are bigger, in land mass, than downtown Rochester. Do we compare by square mile? By population? In downtown Rochester, “population” can vary dramatically, depending on whether it’s during the workday or there’s an Amerks game or a big festival.

Besides, the issue isn’t whether downtown has less crime than some of the Monroe County suburbs. The issue is whether downtown is safe. And it is.

If you don’t feel safe anywhere unless there is absolutely no crime, then you won’t feel safe downtown – or in Gates or Greece. But the number of crimes committed downtown is small. And most violent crime in Rochester and in the US isn’t committed by strangers, it’s committed by someone the victim knows.

Those of us who live in or near downtown – those of us who are downtown day and night, routinely – feel safe there. Because we are. The statistics prove it.

The original version of this article stated that the Town of Irondequoit does not have its own police department. That was an error.

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