Pathways to Peace, the youth gang and violence intervention arm of city government, has stopped much of its street-level outreach services due to a lack of resources.
But a lower street presence for the four-person agency has some City Council members worried and confused, since Rochester's problem with youth violence is well-documented. And the situation doesn't seem to be improving.
- Keenan Allen. PROVIDED PHOTO
"Our focus is not on street outreach and more on mediating conflicts," says Keenan Allen, director of Pathways to Peace, which is part of the city's Department of Recreation and Youth Services.
The agency has also shifted its attention primarily to youth engaging in high-risk activities who show the most promise of improving, Allen says. And he says he's had to cap the number of youth he's working with to 60 at a time.
But the need is much greater, says City Council member Adam McFadden. City officials are too focused on downtown development, McFadden says, and not doing enough for the city's troubled youth.
"We apparently don't recognize the problem of youth violence, which has held some of our neighborhoods hostage," he says.
Council member Loretta Scott is concerned about the reduction in Pathways activities, too, and says she will push to increase the roughly $300,000 the mayor has budgeted for the organization.
Explaining what purpose Pathways serves has been an ongoing problem for the organization.
"They have not been able to clearly evaluate their own work in a way that would make it easy to understand," says John Klofas, a criminal justice professor at Rochester Institute of Technology.
Intervention that prevents a homicide or an assault is hard to quantify, he says, because it's not absolutely clear what the intervention stopped from happening.
"But I think they've provided a very valuable service," Klofas says.
About 75 percent of Rochester's violent incidents — stabbings and shootings — stem from youth violence, he says. And often the incidents are over issues unrelated to the drug trade, such as rivalry for a girl's attention or earning respect on the street.