You can throw around all the statistics you want about crime rates being at historic lows, but if you live in a crime-ridden neighborhood, to you, the city is a violent place. I’ve heard Rochester officials say that more than once, and I experienced it myself last night at a campaign event for City Council candidate, the Rev. Marlowe Washington.
The focus of Washington’s forum was public safety, and it was held at New Bethel church in the Marketview Heights neighborhood in Rochester’s troubled Northeast quadrant. The crowd seemed to be made up mostly of longtime Marketview residents who said they’ve watched the neighborhood’s slide with dismay.
They also spoke about a disconnect between the police and the neighborhood. One lifelong Marketview resident said the police used to play basketball with children at a neighborhood rec center. But the police don’t interact like that anymore, he said, and the rec center closed.
“It felt like a family,” a resident said. “The police would come out and be involved. We lost it someplace. I don’t know where and I don’t even know when.”
Washington pushed for a return to the old precinct system and “community policing.” But community policing is a philosophy, and does not have anything to do with the number of police precincts operating in the city. Police Chief James Sheppard and many others in power will tell you that the RPD is practicing what can be considered community policing.
There was also talk about the possibility of forming a neighborhood council that would include Marketview residents and police, working together.
Harry Murray, a local activist and sociology professor at Nazareth College, spoke at the forum. He pointed out an obvious but salient point: if people are afraid, he said, it’s very difficult to build and keep a neighborhood.
“If you reduce people’s fear of crime, you change how they interact with one another,” Murray said.
Washington said he planned to hold more forums on different issues during the campaign.