Hours after yet another shooting Wednesday morning on Hudson Avenue, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Police Chief Eric Hawkins briefed reporters on efforts to halt spiking gun violence in the city.
So far in 2020, there have been 92 shooting victims in the city of Albany, 69 shooting incidents total, 175 shots fired. Seven people have been killed. Sheehan says in 13 incidents police didn't get a call: they were already in the neighborhood.
"Our average response time for a 'shots fired' is under 2 minutes. This is an indication, right, that police, the police are in the vicinity of where these events are taking place. So from the standpoint of some of the questions that we've had about 'where are the police?' The answer to that is the police are there in the community."
Hawkins says the increase in gun activity in the city began earlier than usual, in March, which he connects to COVID. He says it escalated right around the time of civil unrest stemming from George Floyd’s death in May. Hawkins says gun violence began subsiding in July and into August.
"It was something that we were seeing in communities across the country. A lot of urban areas were experiencing the same thing, so we had to regroup and find out how we could safely police our community."
Sheehan declared anyone who picks up a gun and fires it is "a menace" to the community.
"It’s not just the police department’s job to keep us safe. We have to come together as a community and demand: not one more shooting. Not one more.”
Hawkins says some of the incidents involve long-standing feuds that have festered on social media.
"What we've learned in some of the investigations is that the source was something that happened five or 10 years ago. Or it involved a relative or friend of the two who were directly involved. A lot of it just doesn't make sense if you think about it, but that's what's driving a lot of these incidents that we're seeing."
Sheehan says 14 people who have been arrested on gun charges are not currently incarcerated.
“I’m troubled. I don’t know why so many of those individuals are not incarcerated. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happening with their trials. Again, we are one piece of the criminal justice system. And I know that our police department would like nothing more than to have these cases go to trial so that we can ensure that we’re keeping our streets safe.”
Sheehan says most other states have "figured it out" when it comes to dealing with bail reform, and suggests Albany county should be advocating for pre-trial services that would ensure people out awaiting trial are adequately monitored. Hawkins says he needs to see more data before commenting on New York’s bail laws.