Officials respond to recent Syracuse youth violence across all levels of government

Oct 19, 2018

A 14-year-old was shot in Syracuse last weekend and it is part of a recent increase in youth violence in the city. Syracuse’s mayor said while the issue of gun violence is not new to the city, the age of the victims and perpetrators of recent crimes has given everyone in the community additional cause for concern.

In a separate incident last week, a 12-year-old boy was shot and killed in the city. Police said he was not the intended target. A 22-year-old man was arrested two days later and police credit the help of witnesses in leading to his arrest.

In the past month, the city has experienced multiple stabbings and shootings involving children and teens including an 8-year-old shot in September. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said each act of violence has its own unique circumstances. He said he has been in contact with representatives at every level of government for additional help.

“The will is there," Walsh said. "If there was a simple solution we would have solved it by now. There isn’t.”

Walsh said reducing gun violence will take an all-out effort on multiple fronts.

“The issue of poverty, the conditions that are often in place in neighborhoods that make it conducive to this type of violence, those are the conditions that we have to address at the root causes," Walsh said. "Law enforcement is part of the solution, but it can’t be the entire solution, which is all the more reason that we need to bring in all of our other partners that are addressing these many conditions.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week that state troopers will be deployed for patrols in Syracuse and a crime investigator will be added to the Syracuse Gang Violence Task Force. Cuomo said there will also be money for crime prevention like evening sports, tutoring and job training programs.

“Young people need something to do to stay off the streets," Cuomo said. "You need to get them off the streets and offer them some hope. We’ll look to community based organizations in Syracuse to tell us what will work best here. But then we’ll provide funding from the state level to make sure there is an alternative to the street corner.”

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said deploying state troopers is a great idea and he wants to expand on that.

“I’m actively seeking to get some extra funding for the sheriff, who is very anxious to help us with increased patrols, he just needs the budgetary ability to do it,” Fitzpatrick said. 

Mayor Walsh has also had conversations with Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), a former federal prosecutor, who said there needs to be a stronger federal presence again. Katko said while the gang task force, a collaboration between local and federal agencies, technically still exists, it’s only going to be reinvigorated if there are major prosecutions coming out of it.