ROCHESTER — In September, Rochester Police Department officials will deliver on promises to increase foot patrols in four of the city’s high-crime areas.
About 200 people attended an Aug. 10 meeting at Holy Apostles Church to show support for the proposal. The gathering was sponsored by Interfaith Action, an ecumenical federation of businesses and congregations — including several Catholic churches — throughout Monroe County.
The commitment to add police patrols was originally discussed a year ago during a meeting with mayoral candidates that was held to garner support for the RochesterOneMonroe community agenda. During that meeting, then-candidate Robert Duffy signed and pledged to support the agenda, a plan proposed by Interfaith Action to improve overall conditions in the city and, thus, enhancing the quality of life throughout the greater Rochester area, said Interfaith member Sister Barbara Lum.
“We’re better off united than divided,” Sister Lum said. “It’s better to invest in families and neighborhoods, than bigger projects that can’t be seen on neighborhood streets.”
For the past several months, Deputy Chief James Sheppard and Interfaith members have been meeting to discuss the proposal for increased foot patrols. During the Aug. 10 meeting, Rochester Police Sgt. Thomas Meehan, representing Sheppard, said the department will add 31 officers — including some new police-academy graduates — for foot patrols that will begin around the end of September. The announcement elicited loud applause from the audience. Many of the officers will be bilingual and not only in Spanish, Meehan noted.
As proposed, officers will patrol four identified areas including those surrounding several Catholic churches. These areas include the Lyell Avenue neighborhood near Otis Street, which is home to Holy Apostles and Holy Family churches; Campbell and Child streets on the west side; the Goodman Avenue blocks near Peck and Garson streets; and Woodward, Ontario, North, Scio and other streets surrounding Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church on the east side.
“We want to address where the needs are,” Meehan said.
The plan and its specific targeted neighborhoods will be evaluated monthly with help from the newly created Public Safety Initiatives Center. City officials announced in August that the center will use staff from Rochester Institute of Technology and will develop comprehensive anti-crime policies based on data and research on crime patterns.
“It’s a teamwork effort,” Meehan said. “It’s not just the police, the churches or the families. … We can do it as a team with everybody in equal parts.”
Panchita Colon, a Holy Apostles parishioner who belongs to Interfaith Action, said she believes the project will work and is greatly needed. She has been conducting research for the proposal by meeting with people one-on-one to hear their concerns.
“Police cars going by fast don’t see what’s going on,” Colon said, explaining that foot patrols will work better. “There’s no interaction with neighbors. (Police) can work with the community to make it a better place to live.”
Sharon Taylor of the Church of Love faith center agreed. She felt that if police knew the residents on their beats, they would better utilize their time and resources and avoid incidents like when they mistakenly stopped her nephew after he picked up a soda at a corner store on Garson, which is known as a hangout for drug dealers.
“If we had foot patrols in the area, they would have known my car and him,” Taylor said, noting that her nephew is a recent East High School graduate heading off to college this fall.
Bill Roose, an Interfaith member from Bethel Christian Fellowship on East Avenue, encouraged everyone in the audience to become friends with the to the cost for unheated indoor sleeping.police, who he said are trying their best to stop the violence that plagues the city.
“Lord, give us the courage to go back to our neighborhoods and take them back,” he shouted from the pulpit.