Poughkeepsie gun violence: What city plans to do in response to spike




  • In US
  • 2022-08-17 09:04:18Z
  • By Poughkeepsie Journal

On Bement Avenue, around the corner from where the City of Poughkeepsie's fourth fatal shooting of this year took place last week, there are signs that people want change.

"Love your neighbor (everyone's your neighbor)," reads a sign on the porch of a house across the street from Warring Elementary School.

Down the road, a woman sat on her front porch Tuesday afternoon, a week after Darren Villani, a 28-year-old city resident, died following a shooting on Mansion Street. She lamented the scourge of gun violence in her neighborhood but would not share her name, she said, out of fear.

It's scary, she said, having to be worried about daytime shootings and gunfire during the night. She said she would like to see more police patrols in her neighborhood, as well as more programs to keep the city's youth busy and productive after school.

City officials spoke about doing just that after a rash of gunfire shook up Poughkeepsie on Aug. 9. The four fatal shootings so far this year are tied with 2020 for the most in any year since there were five in 2013.

City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison offers comments during a news conference on gun violence at the Public Safety Building in Poughkeepsie on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.
City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison offers comments during a news conference on gun violence at the Public Safety Building in Poughkeepsie on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.  

Gun violence in the city has been spiking since 2020, with much of the activity centered on young adults and school-aged residents. A Journal investigation last fall examined the reasons and possible solutions for the increase, finding a cycle of violence lamented by longtime residents in which gang activity is quelled by police activity and community activism, only to flare again soon after.

The recent level of gun violence is something city police "have not seen in decades," Police Chief Thomas Pape said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

In the wake of last week's gun violence, Pape, Mayor Rob Rolison and other law enforcement and city officials spoke about increasing police presence in Poughkeepsie "hot spots," with the help of state police, the Dutchess County Sheriff's Office and more patrols from city officers.

"We will focus uniform and non-uniform patrols in hot spot areas that are identified through crime analysis to address issues related to and contributing to the violence that we've seen with the gunshots and the shootings," Pape said.

Poughkeepsie: City seeks solutions after shootings

Crime: Man killed in Poughkeepsie shooting on Mansion Street

Gangs: Spike in Poughkeepsie violence arouses longtime anguish, fear

Police are also encouraged by the installation of license plate readers at 10 city locations in early August and enhancement of street cameras to provide video surveillance, a move that should help with the investigation of violent crimes, particularly when there is a lack of witnesses, said police Capt. Richard Wilson.

Still, Yvonne Flowers, a city councilmember who represents the 5th ward, stressed the importance of a collaborative effort to keep neighborhoods safe while teaching the community's youth how to pursue alternatives to violence. The north side of the city, where the fifth ward is located, has seen much of the violence in recent years.

"We find a lot of our kids do not know how to deal with conflict," she said. "They don't know how to deal with that disagreement between each other, and the fact that we want to fund programs that help our children understand that violence is not the way to solve our problems.

"Our babies are about to go to school in three weeks. We need to have safe streets. So this collaboration is really going to help."

Poughkeepsie shootings

The violence on Aug. 9 started around 1:45 a.m. near 283 Mansion St., where Villani was found in the road, next to his car, with a gunshot wound to his chest. He was taken to MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie, where he was pronounced dead.

Shortly after that, a 44-year-old man walked into police headquarters with a gunshot wound. He provided few details about the shooting, police said, and was treated at a hospital for his injury.

More gunshots were reported that night. Around 8:30 p.m. officers responded to the ballpark at College Hill park at 16 Bartlett St., where an adult softball game was being played.

Numerous shell casings were found, police said, but no one was injured. The circumstances of that incident were unclear.

"We don't even know if it had anything directly to do with players that were there, or if it just happened to be the same location," city police Capt. Steven Minard said last week.

It is unclear if any of those shootings were related.

On Tuesday people in those neighborhoods near Mansion and Bartlett streets were hesitant to talk about the gun violence that has plagued their community. Pape said every bit of information the public can provide, even if it is anonymous, is helpful to police as they investigate these acts of violence.

"We come here and we say a lot that the community, they don't want to talk to the police. Well, that's not entirely true," he said. "We get a lot of cooperation from the community. The problem lies in when they have to put pen to paper and sign their names or come to court, that's when they don't want to do it, and we understand that."

Problems and solutions

Many factors have contributed to the high level of gun violence, Pape said, including access to guns.

"The weapons that are available out there, the weapons that can easily be purchased or put together, purchased as close as Pennsylvania, as far away as Virginia, the Carolinas, etc. You can buy parts online and you can put these weapons together, so we're seeing a lot of that, the so-called ghost guns, and we're just seeing a lot of regular weapons that have been trafficked from down south up to here," he said. "If we could slow or stop the influx of the weapons that would certainly help."

Gangs have been a problem, too, but "it's kind of a mixed bag," Pape said. "A lot of retaliatory shooting. Some connected to gangs, some not."

A community-wide effort is necessary to stem the tide of violence and make the city safer, Rolison said.

"We live this every single day," he said. "This is a priority. This is something that we are never one second away from."

Matt Spillane covers breaking news throughout the Hudson Valley. Follow him on Twitter @MattSpillane.

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This article originally appeared on Poughkeepsie Journal: Poughkeepsie shootings prompt more police presence in city 'hot spots'

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