UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY-TV) – The City of Utica Police Department (UPD) is investigating three separate incidents of gun violence that occurred over the past weekend, two of which tragically resulted in the loss of life, including the passing of a young teenager.
The city expresses its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of these victims.
To combat gun violence, Mayor Palmieri and Police Chief Mark Williams established a Crime Prevention Unit that proactively targets known gun offenders using evidenced based policing strategies. This has resulted in the arrest of gun offenders and taken 38 illegally possessed handguns off our streets since January.
Last year, in an effort to reduce gun violence, the Administration organized a solution summit with community leaders and incorporated several recommendations that were proposed by the residents. In addition, the city unveiled its Police Reform Plan several months ago, which continues to promote transparency and strengthen relationships between the community and law enforcement. While these are all positive actions, no community is immune to the disturbing trends of rising gun violence throughout the country.
It is disheartening the majority of gun violence, including the two most recent shootings involving youth, were over senseless, petty disputes. In an effort to curtail gun violence, specifically, among younger residents, the city organized the Police & Community Athletic League (PCAL) to build positive relationships between city youth and law enforcement.
While the City will continue to explore options to reduce gun violence, recently enacted legislative changes, such as Bail Reform and Raise the Age, have limited UPD’s ability to reduce gun violence. For example, an individual was arrested earlier this year for possession of a loaded handgun. As this case is still pending, this individual was inexplicably released back into the community. Unfortunately, this same individual is now a suspect in one of this weekend’s homicides. These situations create challenges for law enforcement to keep our community safe.
Lastly, the most important asset the city has in achieving safe neighborhoods is cooperation from the community. There are countless incidents in which individuals who witness gun violence, and even the victims themselves, refuse to cooperate with police, making it difficult for law enforcement to solve crimes and reduce violence.
Two recent examples include a fifteen-year-old female victim who was shot in the chest and told by bystanders not to cooperate with police. Another example is the incident that occurred Sunday (7/4) morning, in which a male was shot in the back of the head and many people on scene obstructed the investigation and hindered the response time of medical personnel.
The Mayor will continue to meet and engage with community leaders to build trust and foster cooperation as the city cannot arrest its way out of this national problem. What we do need is parental and community engagement in support of law enforcement.