ITHACA, N.Y.—A spate of violence that has arisen recently in the City of Ithaca has drawn a policy response from Mayor Svante Myrick, who announced a multi-pronged approach on Thursday to combat the issue.

Myrick issued statements on social media and through a press release to local media, offering a bit more context to the crimes than what has been released by the police as they investigate. In October, there have been several shots fired incidents or shootings, though only one person has been reported injured during those, as well as at least three separate stabbings.

Myrick’s words match with what is often thought and rumored: that much of the violent crime in Ithaca isn’t random, per se, but targeted between specific groups of people.

“It appears that a couple of extremely irresponsible people engaged in a personal
dispute are intent on shooting each other,” Myrick said. “This is obviously stupid, reckless, and terrifying—and Ithacans deserve to live without the fear of being caught in a crossfire. Gun violence is unacceptable.”

Myrick then went on to lay out an “all of the above” approach, which he said will include social investment, smart targeted law enforcement and better infrastructure, though specific details or plans weren’t made readily available.

He said the city is “maintaining and increasing” investment in city organizations like GIAC, the Ithaca Youth Bureau, Southside Community Center, INHS, Black Hands Universal, Unbroken Promises Initiative and REACH Medical, among others. That will hopefully facilitate addressing the needs of people who commit crimes—Myrick said it is investing in “solving the root causes of crime.”

The “smart targeted law enforcement” portion seems to refer to the Community Stabilization Unit announced earlier this week, a collaboration between the Ithaca Police Department and the New York State Police. Though the recent violence hasn’t been solely focused in the West End, there have been significant incidents in that area and IPD Acting Chief John Joly said the unit will be “visible and interacting with neighborhood residents” there. Plus, Myrick mentioned the ongoing Reimagining Public Safety reforms and the now-well-funded LEAD program.

There are also infrastructure improvements slated that the city hopes will reduce crime: better lighting by repairing broken streetlights and working with private property owners to “improve their lights, cameras, and property management.” Myrick said that effort will focus on the largest developments, potentially referring to developments like West Village and Cayuga Gardens, the former of which has been the target of previous crime reduction initiatives.

The violence has played out in the foreground, with a public pressure campaign being waged with increasing fervor by the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association in the background. Over the summer, the police union began posting on Facebook about crimes that were being committed in the city, normally positing that they were unable to respond or adequately investigate crimes because of staffing (though this has been disputed, in one specific instance, by Joly). They also decried the state of the city’s crime situation in general, though their own statistics told a different story at the time.

That campaign has ramped up even more recently, during the last two weeks, as the IPBA has begun using a marketing firm, Powers MediaWorks, to distribute statements on certain Ithaca crimes to local media. In their last release, IPBA President Thomas Condzella called Myrick an “activist” and “self-proclaimed police reformist,” and claimed the mayor’s “anti-police rhetoric” has made the city less safe.

Myrick and the IPBA are no strangers to warring through words, and the mayor hit back in his last point, titled “combating misinformation” and largely dedicated to the IPBA’s latest public statements. Perhaps notably, Joly was quoted in Monday’s press release regarding the Community Stabilization Force, but was not included in Myrick’s release on Thursday.

He also claimed that the IPBA is “fear-mongering” with the goal of stopping or altering the Reimagining Public Safety reforms that are moving forward in the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County by swaying public opinion.

“I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that nearly every day the police union’s PR firm issues a press release framed in the scariest possible language,” Myrick said. “Our reform plan is clear, it will not increase crime. It will improve public safety.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com