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Residents group leader says mayor's budget falls short on public safety

The should of a police officer's uniform includes a sewn on patch that reads "Syracuse Police New York"
Isaiah Vazquez
A patch on the shoulder a uniform jacket identifies the officer as a member of the Syracuse Police Department during Mayor Ben Walsh's State of the City address at Corcoran High School in Syracuse, N.Y., Thursday, January 26, 2022.

The longtime leader of a neighborhood advocacy group on Syracuse’s southwest side wants to see a stronger emphasis on public safety in the city budget for next fiscal year. 

The city's common councilors are reviewing Mayor Ben Walsh’s proposed $310 million spending plan, which he released earlier this week. The proposal includes new police classes, a police cadet program, an improved officer schedule, among other measures aimed at enhancing public safety.

But Syracuse United Neighbors Executive Director Rich Puchalski said that's not enough to address community concerns around crime. He said there were more than 70 shots fired in city neighborhoods in the first two months of this year.

“Not enough guns are taken off the street, there's not enough patrol people," Puchalski said. "So we suffer a lot from this violence.”

The Syracuse Police Department has said it is battling an ongoing staffing issue. Puchalski said the Walsh administration should work with the county and state to get more officers on the streets.

“Whether are we sleeping in our beds at night and hear shots being fired, or whether during the daytime," Puchalski said. "Like last week, 5:30 in the afternoon, people were shot on Geddes Street, a major thoroughfare on the west side.”

Puchalski said more than two dozen neighbors attended a meeting this week with Lateef Johnson-Kinsey, director of the mayor’s Office to Reduce Gun Violence, to discuss a plan to provide intervention services and stipends to gang members in an effort to curb violence in the streets. But Puchalski said residents are concerned that doesn’t go far enough.

He also said his organization pushed hard for the police surveillance cameras on utility poles, but questions their efficacy.

"Are those cameras working to catch the individuals involved in this kind of violence?" Puchalski said.

The Syracuse Common Council is expected to vote on a final budget by May 8.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at