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Fighting gun violence in Utica, with and without badges

If you have a Ring camera, it's probably telling you about shootings and shots fired incidents in Utica just about every day recently.

Posted: Dec 29, 2020 6:27 PM

UTICA, N.Y. -- If you have a Ring camera, it's probably telling you about shootings and shots fired incidents in Utica just about every day recently. On Wednesday, December 23rd, 30-year-old Martin Martinez was shot to death on Howard Ave. Christmas day, a man was shot in the leg, on Seymour Ave. and James Street. The very next day, someone walked into St. Elizabeth Medical Center, with a gunshot wound. Monday, a report of shots fired on Sunset Ave. Tuesday, a shots fired call on Faas Ave. and Erie Streets.

"We are deeply concerned about the spike in gun violence and homicides," says Patrick Johnson, program director for the Oneida County District Attorney's Office's Save Our Streets program.

In 2019, there were 251 shots fired calls in Utica; in 2020, 312.  In 2019, there were 28 non-fatal shootings in the city; in 2020, there were 37.  In 2019, there were no gun homicides in Utica; in 2020, there were nine. 

Utica Police say there's little doubt the pandemic has impacted crime fighting and gun violence.

"I think Covid has unfortunately hindered a lot of the community outreach aspects with the access and inclusion committee," says Utica Police Sgt. Michael Curley. "Things of that nature where people are unable to gather and come up with solutions in totality vs just trying to do it singularly."

Sgt. Curley also points out-no police agency alone can stop gun violence.

"This problem doesn't just stop and end with the police department, it's community involvement, victim/witness cooperation and people really taking a stand saying gun violence will not be tolerated here in Utica and we need the help of everyone."

Roosevelt Patterson has probably stopped shootings from happening in Utica. He doesn't wear a badge, but he fights street crime 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Patterson is part of the Street Team; an extension of the Oneida County District Attorney's Office's Save Our Streets program. Sometimes, his phone rings in the middle of the night. When people fear a conflict, or, 'beef', could turn deadly, and aren't comfortable calling the police, they sometimes call Patterson.

"More than likely, it's a problem with somebody had an issue at a party or at a ballpark or something like that and they want to resolve it because they heard the other person have a tendency to possibly be a shooter or something like that and they would like to resolve it," says Patterson. "They'll give me a call or another member of the street team and ask us to meet with them."

When the phone isn't ringing, Patterson is walking the streets of his city, with the rest of the Street Team, spreading knowledge and the empowerment to resolve conflict peacefully.

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