Acting U.S. Attorney Toni Bacon of New York’s Northern District joined with Capital Region law enforcement leaders Thursday to declare a united front against gun violence.
Outside the federal courthouse on Albany's Broadway, Bacon was flanked by police chiefs of Albany, Schenectady and Troy during a year marked by an uptick in gun crime.
"Some of our most violent shooters right now are actually children. It's children shooting children, which creates a very special and unique challenge, as the perpetrators aren't necessarily in their 20s."
Bacon says she decided to step in after hearing reports of more than 100 incidents involving gun violence in the region this year.
"Young children in our community have been shot. A 13-year old was shot in the leg on January 11th. A 14-year old was shot on May 30th. A 10-year old child was hit by a stray bullet on June 4th and a 7-year old was shot in the knee on August 30th. Shortly after I arrived in Albany, I saw on the news the horrendous tragedy of 11-year old Ayshawn Davis, who was shot and killed just across the river in Troy."
Bacon says she is making gun crime her office's priority.
"This gun violence is completely unacceptable, and the time to take a stand is now."
Bacon notes federal officials will work with local police and D.A.'s to prosecute gun crime and determine whether individual cases warrant federal charges.
"We are at a tipping point. And we absolutely cannot allow violent criminals to take over the streets. We can't allow them to instill fear in our communities. And we absolutely cannot allow them to harm another child."
Baker says cases taken on by her office will not be hampered by New York state’s new discovery law, which some have criticized as burdensome for prosecutors.
"Every single prosecutor in our office will be standing by to prosecute gun cases and folks that means me too. We will not decline a case in this district because of workload. If there's a viable case and there's a shooter on the street harming our communities we're going to take those cases federally if we can."
Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins lays blame for the crime spike on "unusual events that occurred in our society."
"Something that we're seeing in cities across America. Urban centers across our country. So I'm so pleased and I'm sure I speak for my local partners to know that we've got these partnerships, that we have a U.S. attorney who has the passion and enthusiasm to come in here, that we have partners in the FBI and the DEA and probation and parole that can help us to identify exactly what was driving the crime this year in Albany, and in helping us to draft some solutions as we move into 2021."
Baker encouraged schools, faith-based and community organizations to show young people there's a better way than the gang life.
"All of us, every single person listening has a critical role to play. And together, if everyone gives a little bit more, it can make a huge difference."