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New York pushing initiatives to curb gun violence in Syracuse

Rod Waddington

New York state is trying to combat an increase in gun violence that is touching communities across the state, sponsoring programs in central New York to get guns off the streets, and looking for ways to keep youth away from violent lifestyles.

The strategy starts with the Cuomo Administration sending officials across the state for gun violence prevention meetings. In Syracuse Thursday, state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon met with local residents behind closed doors, to discuss the recent rash of gun violence.

"I told them at the end of the meeting, we’re going to look at everything we got from Syracuse, and compare it with everything we got from everywhere, and see what are the commonalities, what are the things everybody deals with, and what are the things that are specific to Syracuse," said Reardon. "Because every city has its own flavor, but we don’t want to force a big fat template we’re going to force on everybody."

The commonalities Reardon talks about are poverty and drug use. But she noted in central New York, she finds many serious committed groups in the city working to face the issue head-on.

"They actually get into the community and work hard, and are dedicated to this," she said. "And they really understand the community that they’re working in. What I would like to do is take that capacity and energy, and find a way to build on that."

After the meeting, the state promised 256 new summer and long-term jobs for youth, more summer programs at state parks including Green Lakes, hiring new violence interveners to work in existing programs, and expanding community services that strike at the heart of families touched by gun violence.

Getting those guns off the street stems from a gun buyback program coordinated between the state Attorney General’s office and Syracuse Police Department. Police spokesman Sgt. Matthew Malinowski says central New Yorkers can receive up to $250 dollars if they bring a gun to the St. Lucy’s food pantry in Syracuse on Saturday.

"Bring the gun in, we render it safe, then once that’s all set you get a gift card and there are iPads available as well on a first come first serve basis," said Malinowski.

All residents in central New York can turn in guns for cash. Police will take anything from a non-working or antique gun to handguns or assault rifles. Malinowski said they sometimes see guns used in crimes that are stolen from people's homes, so getting any gun off the street is a win.

He also emphasizes this is a true amnesty program.

"I know this may be a nerve wracking moment for people, so we’re going to let the citizens approach us. We want to make it as comfortable as possible," he said. "We really want people to trust us. We’re not here to trick you into turning yourself in for a crime, or arrest anyone. We’re just here to collect the weapons so people can be paid."

These initiatives follow a state of gun violence disaster emergency declared by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month. It allows the state to spend $138 million to get a recent rash of gun violence under control.