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Increased Occurrences Of Violence In Syracuse Renews Calls For Evidence-Based Prevention Strategies, Accountability

Democratic candidate for  Mayor Khalid Bey speaks in downtown Syracuse with other community advocates standing behind him.
Chris Bolt
Democratic candidate for Mayor Khalid Bey speaks about violence prevention strategies in downtown Syracuse.

The violence that marred the Fourth of July holiday in Syracuse has drawn reactions from one of Syracuse’s mayoral candidates and the Public Advocate from New York City. Jumaane Williams says strategies that were starting to work to reduce crime in New York City need to be expanded statewide after the pandemic exacerbated root causes of crime. He says a strong police department with accountability is only part of the plan.

“But the part that sometimes gets left out is the part that housing plays, the part that healthcare plays,” said Williams. “The part that mental health plays, the part that poverty plays, the part that having a job plays. An eight-week summer job cuts violent arrests in half for up to six months after that job. So, we know what works. It’s about investment.”

He stood alongside Common Councilor and mayoral candidate Khalid Bey, who also supports more programs to strengthen families and communities, instead of just reacting to increasing violent crime. One of Bey’s proposals would be aimed at helping both young people and neighborhoods.

“The need for us for example to find ways and find revenue to keep our school buildings open until 10 pm,” said Bey. “Not only so that young people could have access to something to do, but even people around the community, they want to do neighborhood watch meetings, they want to do similar types of meetings to create that camaraderie, establish that kind of camaraderie with their neighbors. Give people a chance to reestablish the quality of life they want.”

He also suggests financial incentives for businesses and building owners to house small, neighborhood police precincts that would increase visibility and improve community-police relations. But Bey emphasizes accountability for any violence prevention investments.

“So, we have to create opportunities for direct funding to agencies. We have to make sure these agencies are providing us deliverables, though. We’ve spent a lot of money over the years in the name of community programs and the like, but the issues have only increased,” said Bey. “We’re always worried about the money getting lost in administration and never really reaching the people that it’s intended to help.”

Public Advocate Williams agrees this approach can pay dividends if it goes after racial and other biases already there.

“Like, I don’t want to see folks talking about the positive change that’ll happen in a system that we knew was bias to begin with, as if we should reverse that system,” said Williams. “We should continue to move forward with evidence-based models and programs. The things that we’re talking about here, they’re evidence-based. They actually are tough on crime. Tougher on crime than simply saying ‘We’re going to try to send as many police to a location as possible.’”

Both say they support an approach that reimagines public safety, with police and support services that would both be accountable. Bey is running for Mayor against Ben Walsh and Janet Burman.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.