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Mayor-elect Evans gives update on violence, plans for transition 

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PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

Six weeks before he is to take office, Mayor-elect Malik Evans said Wednesday he is focused on countering the escalating violence facing the city.

Evans held a media briefing at One East Avenue, the location of his campaign headquarters, for the first of what he said would be regular updates as he moves into office. He was fresh off meeting with Rochester Police Interim-Chief Dave Smith, District Attorney Sandra Doorley, U.S. Attorney Trini Ross, state police, and other local political and law enforcement leaders.

Their main topic of discussion was what they could do to stem the rising tide of violence in Rochester. As Evans segued into his remarks to reporters, he held up a vase filled halfway with 816 pebbles of pebbles to symbolize every person in Rochester who has been shot since 2019.

“I’ve added 380 pebbles to this jar, and of those 380, 75 have been deaths, ” Evans said, noting that those numbers are just for 2021.

Last week, Rochester set a new record for annual homicides when 24-year-old Armani Allen was shot and beaten to death outside of the RTS Transit Center on St. Paul Street. Twin brothers Ronald and Donald Brown were later arrested and charged with second-degree murder in relation to Allen's death.

Four homicides have occurred in the city since Allen’s death. Evans, repeating one of his priority campaign messages, emphasized the need for the community to join forces to solve the issue.

“I am very much still optimistic about the future, and I’m asking all of the members of the community to come together and work with me to eradicate this problem,” Evans said.

As for specific details of plans and policy, Evans offered few. The mayor-elect plans to launch a national search for a permanent police chief once he takes office in January. Pressed on specific issues, Evans provided some insight into his thinking.

For example, regarding state bail reform laws that went into effect last year and eliminated cash bail for non-violent misdemeanors. Evans said he would be willing to take a hard position only after a thorough study on the efficacy and impact of bail reform.

“We want to see, how did it affect Rochester, how did it affect Buffalo, how did it affect Syracuse,” Evans said. “...I think we have to follow the data, but it is a conversation we should have. And any conversation we have, it has to be backed up with data and information.”

The reforms have been widely criticized by law enforcement and state Republicans. Last week at a news conference following a double homicide on Chestnut Street, Capt. Frank Umbrino lambasted the bill.

“People getting caught on video, shooting people, and then getting out with no bail?” Umbrino said. “I mean, that’s just stupid.”

But to date, nobody has conducted studies to show whether the reforms and the rise in violent crime are linked. Most of the nation, not just New York, is experiencing a spike in violent crime. According to data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice, shootings in Rochester and Buffalo are up this year, but down in Syracuse and Albany.

But Evans said he’s learned through conversations with law enforcement that the biggest issue police are dealing with is getting community members to “cooperate” when they are investigating alleged crimes.

“If you see something and then they can come and say, ‘Malik, if you say something, I’m gonna get you,’ you’re going to think twice before you want to cooperate,” Evans said.

Evans offered scant news regarding the rest of his transition. He stated that his selections for senior leadership posts will be announced in coming weeks.

When asked if any of the previous administration’s staff would transfer over to his office, Evans said yes.

“We’ll retain some and we’ll have some new,” Evans said. “You never throw the baby out with the bath water, so there will always be some people you retain from administration to administration.”

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.
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