Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the last forum was on Jan. 18. That has been corrected.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — New data shows the homicide rate in Syracuse increased by 55% from 2019 to 2020. In total, 31 people were killed that year. When you look at violent crime as a whole, aggravated assaults are also up by 15%. It’s a trend seen across the country over the year 2020, especially in urban areas.
The good news? The overall crime rate went down over the last year.
Still, Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner and city leaders are working to lower that crime rate, calling it “unacceptable.”
“When you take a community that has fractures on multiple levels under the best of circumstances, and then you place that under the pressure of a pandemic, protests, unrest in a community, it’s a recipe for disappointment,” Buckner said.
Buckner said when it comes to where this violent crime is happening, the Southwest side of Syracuse is “Ground Zero.” There are three common denominators seen in those cases, too. Many of the incidents have to deal with domestic violence, drugs, or gang activity. In most scenarios, it is a targeted attack where the suspect and perpetrator do know one another.
To combat this issue, Buckner started a gun violence suppression detail, putting 10 people in charge. It is their duty to surveillance those areas 40 plus hours a week.
“There’s no secret that there’s a strained community with our police department at times, as it is across the nation,” Buckner said. “Which makes that whole relationship of trying to get information from someone that doesn’t trust you even that much more daunting.”
And while Buckner said his department is losing people at a rate he “can’t keep up with,” the department is still managing to solve 70% of all crimes.
“We are not the agency that we used to be. We’re not the agency that we want to be. But we’re heading in the right direction and I like the trajectory that we’re on right now,” Buckner said.
As part of a state mandate, the county and city are working on police reform efforts and hosting public forums to make it an inclusive process.
They’re working on the body-worn camera policy, where they have outfitted 220 officers with the cameras. They’re also implementing the Right to Know Act, giving their officers business cards to identify themselves and their employee I.D. numbers.
Buckner says the community forums have gone well so far. The last forum for Syracuse will be on Jan. 19 at 5 p.m. It will be held via Zoom and will focus on the south and east neighborhoods in the city.
The last forum scheduled for Onondaga County is on Jan. 20 at 5 p.m. It will also be held via Zoom and will focus on eastern parts of Onondaga County. That includes the Town of DeWitt, Town of Manlius, and Town of Pompey.