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Albany mayor, police chief discuss gun crime in 2021 and efforts to stop it in 2022

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Police Chief Eric Hawkins gave an update this morning on their efforts to stop the gun violence that plagued 2021 in the new year.
Dave Lucas
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Police Chief Eric Hawkins address reporters at South Station, December 30, 2021.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Police Chief Eric Hawkins gave an update this morning on their efforts to stop the gun violence that plagued 2021 in the new year.

The recently re-elected mayor and police chief appeared at South Station to give an end of the year update.

Hawkins says that firearms were more likely to be used in homicides and other violent acts during 2021 than in previous years. He says the nationwide phenomenon has touched the city of Albany, where officers were able to recover 191 firearms.

"Violent individuals have been arrested and held accountable for their unconscionable acts in our community," said Hawkins. "For example, 13 of the 17 homicides this year have been cleared and closed. As a result of all of these actions, compared to last year, confirmed shots fired are down 18%. shooting incidents are down 34% shooting victims are down 27%. And these are all clear and unmistakable indicators that progress in addressing gun violence in this community is occurring. I'm not here to proclaim victory, or to proclaim that the battle has been won, you know, I'm not waving a flag of success. Clearly, there's more work to be done."

Hawkins says moving forward, police will continue to focus on the most violent individuals and hold them accountable.

Sheehan, a Democrat starting her third term, says the trauma caused by gun violence impacts city residents deeply: those who are directly involved as victims and as family members of victims as well as the families of those who choose to use a gun. She noted it also impacts the overall community and residents’ sense of security and safety. The mayor commended "community partners," individuals and organizations that have helped the city cope with gun violence.

"This is not something that we have been able to tackle on our own," Sheehan said. "It is required new community partners coming to the table, those who are participating in our violence reduction Task Force, those who have come forward and propose new ways of engaging with our police officers, like the program that the chief has implemented, where he is partnering every new officer with a community member to help to ensure that the day they come out of that Academy, they already know our neighborhoods know our residents, and can be part of the solutions to the challenges that we face. And it is that type of leadership that will continue. "

Sheehan says she will be innovative in efforts to ensure that every neighborhood in the city is safe.

10th ward common councilor Owusu Anane says the level to which gun violence has risen is "totally unacceptable."

"I love this city," said Anane. "I care about the city and quite frankly, it's really disheartening to see what's happened over the past couple of years in some of our communities that are plagued with the amount of gun violence that we're seeing. I, you know, I commend the mayor and also the police chief and also to share for coming up with solutions to target this small group of people who are causing all the havoc in our city."

Hawkins says his officers will continue working with Albany County Sheriff's deputies until the department has enough officers to successfully combat the rise in gun violence.

"Sheriff Apple and I have spoken on a couple of occasions, since then, our staffs are in communication," said Hawkins. "Because of the holiday period, we had to postpone the meeting that we had scheduled for last week. And so that meeting is actually scheduled for next week. But in the in the meantime, we've been in close communication, to ensure that our operations are aligned or our philosophies are in line or line in terms of how we want to police. And right now, you know, I don't, I don't see any issues."

The Albany Police Benevolent Association recently condemned the sheriff’s office’s continued presence in the city and criticized what they call "high-speed chases" that sheriff's patrols have participated in.

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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