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Syracuse officials plead for help from community after recent teen killings

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Council President Helen Hudson hugs Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens outside of City Hall on Tuesday.

A 13-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy were killedin separate incidents in the past week in Syracuse. Mayor Ben Walsh said the community is in crisis. He was joined by other city officials pleading for the violence to end.

Council President Helen Hudson implored the community to do something. She said she’s gone to more than a hundred funerals and wakes.

“It’s not normal to see the pain that these mothers and these fathers and these siblings leave behind,” Hudson said. “That’s not normal. Our children are dying! And we are the ones that need to step up and start being responsible.”

Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens became emotional, overwhelmed with grief, calling on neighbors to look out for one another.

“Another child is dead. And another child’s life has been changed for the rest of her life,” Owens said, referring to the 16-year-old suspect in one of the cases.  

Mayor Walsh said they need to hit the reset button.

“And we as a community need to do more to protect our children and support our families,” Walsh said.

As summer approaches, he said hundreds of jobs are available for young people. He pledged a robust investment from the federal stimulus package in supporting children and families. The Police Department is starting an athletic league for kids. The city is open to ideas from the community. 

Police Chief Kent Buckner noted the suspects in these recent homicides are young people, as well. The 16-year-old female suspect had to be brought to Erie County, because there was not enough space for girls at the Hillbrook Juvenile Detention Center. It’s the second time that’s happened recently.

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, summer holidays in Syracuse can also turn violent. Buckner said they do increase deployments during the summer.

“I despise good weather,” Buckner said. “I wake up thinking about, are we going to be able to hold on today, because there will be an excessive amount of people out in common areas, and can we make it through the night without something grim happening?”

He said he's also working with a diminished workforce of around 360 officers. While violent crime is up 20% in the city compared to this point last year, overall crime is down 12%.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.