Protests… And the flashing lights of police cruisers… Visual reminders for residents of Rochester, New York that violence has taken over their city.
ELIJAH ROSS: “…It don't make no sense, broad daylight.”
Elijah Ross recently lost his friend Eric Ruise – he was gunned down outside a pharmacy during the day. His murder - one of many plaguing the medium sized city of Rochester.
With 34 homicides already this year, Rochester is on pace for 70 killings in 2021 – which would be a record high and a sharp increase from 52 last year. And according to police data, Rochester’s per-capita murder rate exceeds that of Chicago, one of the most violent large cities in the United States.
Residents and officials are struggling to explain why.
MALIK EVANS: "There are way too many drugs and guns permeating this community."
Malik Evans won the Democratic primary for mayor. He says one major problem for the city is the relationship between police and the community… strained to a breaking point by high-profile incidents, like the death of Daniel Prude in 2020.
MALIK EVANS: “So you now have people who are less likely to want to trust or work with the police and go and get what the streets call street justice, because they don't have those relationships with the police, because of what happened with City Hall and the police department as it related to the Daniel Prude situation…”
Prude stopped breathing during an altercation with police in March 2020 - and later died in a hospital.
The incident ignited protests and months later, body-cam video was released showing Prude naked and facedown in the street. Officers put a hood over his head after Prude, apparently suffering a mental crisis, said he had contracted COVID-19.
A grand jury earlier this year voted not to indict the officers involved.
Rochester is hardly alone in facing rising crime and an increasingly complicated relationship between the local community and police.
Statistics show there’s been a sharp rise in violence nationwide since last year.
Some criminologists believe the national uprising over police killings of Black people, including George Floyd in Minneapolis, made residents of high-crime areas even less likely to assist police in investigations, exacerbating a longstanding problem.
MARCELLA CUNNINGHAM, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: "When you have murders that happen in broad daylight, somebody saw something. I know the community is afraid, but we got to speak up.”
Accountability... and more reliable police protection overall: That’s what many community activists are now calling for.
The Rochester Police Department did not respond to questions about the causes of the rising homicide rate or its efforts to stem the violence.