There are just way too many bullets flying around New York’s Salt City. Watching the news over the past few days it would be easy to compare Syracuse with Chicago. All the shots fired were illegally; some were tragically indiscriminate where they landed. Here is a partial list of some people shot in Syracuse in the past three weeks;
· September 20th a 14-year-old girl shot
· September 20th an 8-year-old girl shot
· September 30th a 15 and a 17-year-old, both boys shot together
· October 3rd a 15-year-old boy shot and killed
· October 10th a 12-year-old boy shot and killed
· October 13th a 14-year-old boy shot and critically wounded
These recent examples are just the ones involving juvenile victims. In the same time, there have been scores of other shootings in Syracuse involving adults. Appallingly, since 2014 over 50 children ages eight to 17 have been shot inside the Syracuse city limits. The rate of juvenile shooting victims per capita in Syracuse is more than double any other U.S. city with a similar population – approximately 140,000 people; this according to a study conducted by the Associated Press and USA TODAY Network. What the heck, Syracuse?
The Syracuse Police Department is tasked with investigating these ridiculous crimes of bravado. The cops use old fashioned shoe leather along with a robust amount of technology to help combat these shootings. The police have a plethora of cameras and microphones set up around the city. Showing their commitment, the city council just renewed a contract to maintain the “Shot-Spotter” system at an annual cost of more than quarter-million dollars.
Shot-Spotter is important because many residents don’t report gunfire because of fear or refuse to report shootings which happen around them. Shot-Spotter places microphones in traditionally troublesome neighborhoods which listen for gunfire. When the sound of shots fired is detected the location is instantly triangulated with alerts sent electronically to police officers nearby.
In addition to the microphones is the video camera network, known as the Criminal Observation and Protection System – the COPS Platform. This puts more eyes and ears in the city watching for a shooting or any crime for that matter.
Even with all of this technology – and the 25 additional cops hired this year – what Syracuse really needs is more community involvement. There is a backward code that permeates poverty-stricken neighborhoods known as “snitches get stitches” which prevents uninvolved witnesses with information from coming forward. Even victims and their families would rather not talk to the police about pertinent details. They would rather even the score themselves, causing the cycle of street violence to continue by confusing revenge with justice. In the aftermath of many of the shooting incidents is the near mandatory candlelight vigil, which more times than not ends prematurely because of violence.
A few years ago people thought if kids stayed in school they would be protected, they would be off the streets and less prone to violence. Then, in order to make it easier to keep kids in school, the city school district took a hands-off, laissez-faire attitude toward student discipline. Very few students were suspended or expelled. It now appears this policy backfired with more students quitting school – and getting arrested – when finally confronted by authority figures.
The current mayor of Syracuse is Ben Walsh. He was elected less than a year ago with help from the people of the south-side neighborhoods. One of the mayor’s most important appointments has yet been made, that of police chief. An exhaustive, year-long search will culminate in November when the name of the next police chief is announced. That police chief will have an arduous task ahead of them. However, make no mistake about it, the mayhem in Syracuse is not solely a police problem, this is a community problem.
Syracuse and several other cities better get a handle on this turmoil soon. Conservative estimates say it takes at least three generations to turn around this type of social behavior. It’s going to take schools, churches, government, business and most importantly – families to end this senseless violence. Parents can no longer tolerate their kids getting shot. And parents can’t blame the police for all of this; they need to look in the mirror to see at least one person who is responsible.