By: John Fulmer//June 18, 2010
By: John Fulmer//June 18, 2010//
A contingent of state and local police authorities, members of the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, firefighters, community activists and volunteers — black and white, men and women, uniformed and in mufti — stood at the corner of Scio and Ontario streets on Friday morning.
It was an unlikely scene as they laughed, kibbutzed, shook hands in the bright sunshine, getting ready for an outdoor press conference in a rough-at-the-edges part of the city.
On Friday morning, it also was likely one of the safest parts of the city.
That was the point.
Project Exile board member Gary Mervis announced the next Project T.I.P.S. event will be held there on Friday.
T.I.P.S. — Trust, Information, Programs and Services — is celebrating its seventh T.I.P.S. event held in the city. Most of the same group from the press conference will visit with neighborhood residents from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday to further an ongoing dialogue on quality-of-life issues and, with the assurance of anonymity, share information about the crime and violence in the community.
Each four-person group will include a police officer, firefighter and two volunteers. The groups will also provide information and contacts residents can use for help with issues such as health care and reporting crime, vandalism and fire.
After a walk through the neighborhood, T.I.P.S. organizers will hold a block party at Scio and Ontario, complete with pony rides for children and a cookout with hamburgers and hot dogs. Residents will have another opportunity to chat with firefighters, police, volunteers and members of agencies such as Project Exile, the Partners Against Violence Everywhere initiative, Pathways to Peace and Rise Up Rochester.
At last week’s press conference, Mervis said 95 percent of the residents of neighborhoods such as these are law-abiding and are tired of crime and violence but worry about their safety — and that of their families — if they report crimes to the police.
They don’t want to be targeted if a local criminal sees a patrol car outside of their front door, Mervis said. The operating principle of T.I.P.S. is that if its groups visit every house, criminals will not know who to target.
More important, Mervis said, is that through such interactions, residents will begin to see the law enforcement officers out fighting crime and the firefighters battling arsonists as dedicated and motivated allies.
“The people charged with protecting these neighborhoods are good people,” Mervis said, adding that residents need to understand “the person in uniform is there to help you.”
Many quality-of-life and crime problems are easy to correct — such as speeding drivers and petty vandalism — but Mervis said T.I.P.S. also works to ensure the basic satisfaction that someone will listen to your concerns.
James McCauley, PAVE coordinator, said T.I.P.S. got its start when 36-year-old Latasha Shaw was beaten and stabbed to death by a mob on Sept. 29, 2007 at the intersection of Dewey and Driving Park avenues. Shaw confronted a group who had assaulted her 14-year-old daughter before the mob turned on her. It took law enforcement authorities more than a year to arrest the two main suspects — Terrance L. Mack and his cousin, Ebony S. Mack — in connection with the murder, mainly because nearby residents were reluctant or afraid to inform police.
“There clearly is a no-snitch policy in Rochester and until people come forward and talk to police, there won’t be justice,” Monroe County First Assistant District Attorney Sandra Doorley told the Democrat and Chronicle at the Macks’ June 2009 sentencing.
“I’ve lived in Rochester all my life and [the beating death] was one of the lowest, if not the lowest, points in the city’s history,” McCauley said.
The T.I.P.S. method of blanketing neighborhoods has led to many tips for law enforcement. McCauley called it a “tremendous vehicle for residents of violence-stricken neighborhoods. It is not a panacea but it is an important step.”
In addition to the neighborhood canvassing efforts, he said organizers have worked hard to clear the streets of firearms.
“We’ve help to move 10,000 guns,” McCauley said, “and 6,500 of them were engaged in a criminal activity.”
And you never know what might happen at a T.I.P.S. gathering.
“We held the last one at the soccer stadium and we had a state trooper doing the double-dutch,” McCauley said. “And he was doing it well.”