That’s the number of murders in Syracuse in all of 2011, according to Syracuse Police. It compares to 15 murders in the city in 2010 — a drop of 60 percent. And it’s a decline that local officials say they can’t explain and can’t depend on continuing.
“I wouldn’t say this is the be all, end all,” said Capt. Shannon Trice of the Syracuse Police Department. “We’re certainly willing to do new things in an effort to curb this violence and reduce homicide.”
Here’s a look at the city police department and the state’s Department of Criminal Justice Services numbers on murder:
- Since 2008, murders have been declining in Syracuse and Onondaga County.
- Murder totals for that year: 27 for the whole county, including 24 reported by the Syracuse Police. That compares to 17 for the whole county, including the six in the city.
- For the whole county, the number of murders peaked in 2002 with a total of 28, including 24 in the city.
- For the whole county, the number of murders dropped 22 percent in 2010, compared to 2001. In 2001, the county had 22 murders, including 15 in the city. In 2010, the whole county had 17 murders, including 15 in the city.
The recent decline is not much comfort to Bob Harrison, the co-founder of the Faith & Hope Community Center in Syracuse. The non-profit organization helps youth deal with anger management and attempts to steer them away from violence.
Harrison was just getting back from a funeral where a close family friend was murdered. “I’m emotional because I came from a funeral,” Harrison said. “When a kid dies, I think about my kids. That could be one of my children. It’s hard to accept all this madness that we know shouldn’t be going on.”
He views the penal system as a recycling system for criminals. “Those same guys they send to prison, they’re coming back to the community,” Harrison said. “So what are those guys bringing back from prison after doing 10 years than a whole lot of anger, hate and frustration? Who do they take it out on? People that look like them in the same small community. That violence cycle starts up again.”
Rick Trunfio, assistant district attorney, does not see the decline in murders as a sign of great improvement for Onondaga County or Syracuse. “People are still shooting, people are missing,” said Trunfio. The murder numbers, he said, have “nothing to do with really anything.”
There is no rhyme or reason why the murders have gone down in the last couple of years, he said. “Will the decline stick around? I don’t know,” Trunfio said. “Yes, we’ve seen a decline. Can I attribute or ascribe any specific reason for that? No.”
As far as the city police department is concerned, Capt. Trice praised its Gang Violence Task Force, for targeting gangs and preparing in-depth investigations for federal prosecution. It has been a successful program, Trice said.
“I think it is having an effect,” Trice said. “Certainly we also need to practice continuous improvement. And we need to tweak things as we go, change with the times.”
(Jake Reiner is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in European history.)