Syracuse community leaders will meet later this month on how they can collaborate to reduce gun violence.

The head of the city’s new Office to Reduce Gun Violence, Lateef Johnson-Kinsey, set up the meeting as one of his first acts in the role.

“We need these people in the room together to come up with a vision and a plan, especially for the summer,” Johnson-Kinsey said.

Thirty people from groups like the National Action Network, Mothers Against Gun Violence, Street Addiction Institute, the Good Life Foundation, SNUG and Building Men, among others, are scheduled to attend.

Johnson-Kinsey set up the meeting to get groups who fight to reduce gun violence in the same room. Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens and Johnson-Kinsey said these groups have never met to assess how they can complement each other. Johnson-Kinsey plans to have quarterly meetings with the groups, he said.

The police department is paying $1,900 out of its budget to cover the cost of the event, which will be held at Christ the King Retreat in Syracuse’s East Side on June 15.

“It really is an opportunity to come together,” Owens said. “They all do similar things, but they all do different nuanced things. Where are you replicating service? Where do we have gaps to that service?”

The meeting will double as respite for leaders who Johnson-Kinsey said have not gotten a break from trying to prevent gun violence over the last two years. Consider:

  • 2020 and 2021 were the worst years for gun violence since at least 2012, the last year gun violence data provided by Syracuse police to New York State was publicly reported.
  • 25 people were shot to death in each of those two years, more than in any year since 2012.
  • Three people have been shot and killed in 2022, four fewer than through this time in 2021.

Johnson-Kinsey said “credible messengers” – people formerly involved with gangs or gun violence and who are respected by community members – will also attend the meeting.

“The younger ones know who they are. When they say, ‘Cut it out,’ cut it out,” Johnson-Kinsey said. “… They’re grown, they have families and they’ve moved on.”

Chico Tillmon, who was hired by the city to evaluate violence intervention programs to find where the city can improve, will also attend the meeting.

Tillmon has long worked with community violence intervention groups in Chicago.

“We want everyone to leave with one language,” Johnson-Kinsey said.

Chris Libonati

Chris Libonati covers government, accountability and equity. Have a tip? Contact Chris at 585-290-0718 or libonati@centralcurrent.org.