At the start of every summer the number of shooting incidents in the city of Albany goes up. But the numbers and types of incidents this year are troubling law enforcement officials.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares and Albany City Police Chief Eric Hawkins spoke Friday at the DA’s Outreach Office in Arbor Hill. One of the most recent Albany shootings on Thursday saw a young boy suffer a gunshot wound to the shoulder while he was home in his room playing games on an iPad. Hawkins says it’s distressing.
"So far this year, year to date, we have had three times as many confirmed shots fired, three times as many shooting victims, three times as many shooting incidents in the city of Albany. It's just not acceptable. We're placing everybody at risk but we're especially placing our young people in the community at risk."
Soares cited the 3-year-old shot last year while asleep in a daycare center and 10-year-old Kathina Thomas, killed in June 2008 by a stray bullet fired from a 15-year old boy's "community gun" as she played outside her home.
"If you have any information on the individuals who were engaged in mutual combat that fired off over 20 shots that struck a 10-year-old boy that is currently getting treatment at a hospital, please contact the Albany Police Department and provide it with information. Your identity, your information will kept secret. We must remove those people who are engaged in this level of lethality. We must remove these individuals from our streets, because it is evident that they don't care about themselves, they do not care about the people who live in these communities and they do not care about the children."
Hawkins and Soares are calling on the community to help solve the shooting and bring those involved to justice. Soares is running for a fifth term and faces Matt Toporowski in June 23’s Democratic primary. He criticized criminal justice reforms that became effective in January.
"I criticize the governor for passing that law. I think we had a little bit of time to see how that law was actually impacting public safety. They went back to the drawing board and made some corrections providing judges with a bit more discretion, but that's still not enough."
Hawkins says too many young people in Albany are carrying and concealing illegal weapons. He adds he is keen on opening a dialogue with emerging young neighborhood leaders, and invites them to join him in a sit-down with Mayor Kathy Sheehan to improve police-community relations.