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Albany City Officials, Struggling To Control Gun Violence, React To Governor’s Emergency Declaration

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Police Chief Eric Hawkins
Dave Lucas
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Police Chief Eric Hawkins

A week ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of “disaster emergency” over gun violence across New York — and announced $138 million in new spending to try to stop the surge in shootings. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas has reaction from Albany city officials.

Cuomo's seven-point plan calls gun violence an "emergency public health issue."  The governor plans to engage at-risk youth by creating summer jobs and funding social programs. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, a fellow Democrat, says the city would use the funds to boost its youth employment program.

“We would love to be able to expand that program to include a year round component. We do have an have had funding in the past to be able to do that. So to be able to expand that and have more young people be able to participate year round, really helps us to ensure that we are not only giving them opportunities to explore different career paths, but it also gives us an opportunity to ensure that we're engaging with them in a way that allows us to really work to make sure that they stay in school, that they understand what a career path is, and really see themselves as being successful”

Sheehan noted that young people who participate in Albany's summer youth employment program are 66% more likely to graduate from high school.

She says the gun violence issue Iis a broad issue, affecting cities all around the country. Police Chief Eric Hawkins agrees.

“Well, I think that any amount of help and support that we can get at any level is much appreciated. We had a very difficult and very challenging year last year, but as the mayor said, communities across this country, particularly urban communities had those same challenges. You know, this is something that wasn't unique to us. And so this is there's  a national undercurrent of, of things that are happening, that are impacting us at a local level. And so when we get support from the governor, or from whoever it may be, in the state or outside of the state, is very much appreciated. And so right now, we're assessing exactly how to fit that support in.”

Meanwhile, Hawkins says behind-the-scenes community engagement and support from law enforcement, specifically Albany County Sheriff and New York State Police patrols, are helping to chip away at crime rates.

"This year, year to date, from the latest data that we have, we're down over 40% in shooting incidents, down over 40% in victims shot. Our confirmed shootings are down almost 25%. And our trajectory in terms of our overall violent crime and in crime in general, is going down. So I say that to say, you know, we're not saying that we've met success, and dealing with the issues that we're seeing. We still have way too many people that are victims, we have way too many people who are willing to pick up a gun and use that gun as a way of resolving conflicts. But it's very important for our community to understand that there is progress that's being made.”

Hawkins adds he has been talking with troopers about the governor’s call for creation of a new State Police Gun Trafficking Interdiction Unit to stop the flood of illegal guns that come into New York from states with weak gun safety laws.

Hawkins says even if the existing partnership with troopers and the Sheriff's office doesn't extend indefinitely, he's expecting there will be "some form of partnership and collaboration with those agencies as we move forward."


Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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