When will Elmira get past the ‘gun-play?’ Police responds to spike in targeted shootings

State News

ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Two reports of shots fired on Wednesday night led Elmira Police Chief Anthony Alvernaz to blame gang violence for the recent uptick in crime.

From Saturday to Thursday, five calls of shots fired could be heard over police scanners. On Saturday morning, three calls for gunfire in less than three hours; on Wednesday night, two reports within hours of each other on the city’s southside.

According to data compiled by 18 News, it is believed that nearly 90 shots fired reports have been tallied this year, 60 of them between the beginning of May and September 23. In 2020, there were 82 reports for the entire year, which shows this uptick is more significant than in recent years.

“Unfortunately I do not believe we’re going to stop at this point in time, so I believe we will be eclipsing that number here shortly. We already have and it’s going to keep going up,” Chief Alvernaz said during an 18 News at Noon exclusive.

While the Chief was quick to blame the increase in organized crime, he added that policies from Albany are also a cause for the spike. He criticized the bail reform laws instituted under the Cuomo Administration, saying offenders are detained and released often within hours of committing a crime.

“I don’t think Elmira should be singled out I believe we’re seeing this throughout the state. Part of the reason why it’s happening now, which I believe is a consensus among law enforcement, is the bail reform,” Chief Alvernaz continued.

Attorney General Letitia James has made decreasing gun violence a priority, conducting several gun buy-back events and ghost gun busts in cities across the state. In July, former Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the nation’s first gun violence disaster declaration, calling the uptick an epidemic.

“We went from COVID to the epidemic of gun violence,” Gov. Cuomo said in a press conference.

Gov. Hochul shares this concern and has made $23.7 million available for local leaders across the state to identify the most effective use of gun violence prevention funds in each community. Funding has been awarded to support three gun violence prevention programs, including job training and placement, community activities, and expansion of gun violence intervention programs.

“I know I also have a responsibility and part of that is to make sure you have the resources to do what you do every single day,” Gov. Hochul told a group of religious leaders in New York City in September.

Assembly Republicans remain critical of this approach saying more resources need to be provided to law enforcement as well as reforming the state’s bail reform and parole laws.

“They’re kidding themselves if they think that’s gonna make a difference. Not enough is being done. The Governor and the Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate haven’t done enough,” Assemblymember Phil Palmesano said Thursday.

Law enforcement, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and residents agree that enough is enough. Chief Alvernaz has pledged his officers and resources to combat the problem and he hopes the community will do the same by reporting incidents when they occur.

“We cannot be putting up with this. It takes everybody to call in when they see something,” Chief Alvernaz concluded.

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