Elmira tapping into state program to address gun violence. Here's how residents can help (2024)

There were about twice as many shootings in the City of Elmira in 2023 as there were five years ago.

That's according to statistics from the Elmira Police Department, and with that in mind, the department is taking advantage of a state program designed to combat gun violence. They are also asking the public to help craft a local strategy.

Last year, Elmira applied for grant assistance through the Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) initiative coordinated by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

One of the requirements of the program is to engage key stakeholders and the community at large and give them a voice in the process.

To meet that goal, the Elmira Police Department set up an online survey that gives city residents a chance to anonymously provide input on several key questions.

Elmira tapping into state program to address gun violence. Here's how residents can help (1)

"To my knowledge the Elmira Police Department has never completed a survey as to what the citizens feel are the greatest concerns for public safety, how we are servicing the community, and what else the community would like to see," said Police Chief Kristen Thorne.

"I believe having this information will either provide a confirmation that overall we are doing a good job or provide us with possible directions where we can focus some of our efforts differently or better," Thorne said.

How prevalent is gun violence in Elmira?

In 2018, there were slightly more than 30 cases of reported gunfire in the city. By 2021, that number was closer to 80.

Incidents dropped to 62 in 2022 but spiked again at 76 in 2023, Thorne said.

Those shootings have been scattered throughout the city over the past five years, but some of the heaviest concentrations have been in the Washington Avenue neighborhood on the city's Eastside, and off South Main Street on the Southside.

Elmira tapping into state program to address gun violence. Here's how residents can help (2)

Other problem areas have been in the neighborhoods around Maple Avenue and Pennsylvania avenue, both on the Southside.

Most of the shootings have involved property damage, but there have been several gun-related homicides in the city, along with other instances where people were shot and wounded, during that time frame.

"This is historical and as part of the program we are continuing to maintain awareness of problem gun-related crime areas so as to change our response for the future," Thorne said.

How the GIVE initiative works

The GIVE program provides state funding to local law enforcement agencies for equipment, overtime and personnel, as well as focused training and technical assistance.

The program supports law enforcement agencies in counties across the state where a high incidence of gun violence was perceived.

Those counties historically account for more than 80% of the violent crime that occurs in the state outside of New York City, the Division of Criminal Justice Services said.

Since its inception in 2014, the GIVE program has awarded about $13 million statewide during each year's funding cycle.

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An analysis of statistics from the original 20 participating law enforcement agencies showed a 24% reduction in shooting incidents with injury from 2022 to 2023, along with a 24% decline in shooting victims and a 33% reduction in shooting deaths, according to the Division of Criminal Justice Services.

An additional $44.4 million allocated over the last two state budgets enabled the program to increase funding to the original participating law enforcement agencies in the 2022-23 fiscal year, and expand it to include four additional counties and eight new police departments (some of which are in counties with existing programs) in the current fiscal year.

Chemung County was awarded $208,147 as part of that allocation.

The bulk of that money went to the Elmira Police Department, according to Thorne, with the remainder divided among the Chemung County Sheriff's Office, the county Probation Department and District Attorney's Office.

Elmira is using its share of the grant money to fund salaries of two police investigators specifically assigned to the GIVE program.

"Some of the investigations in the past may have stalled out due to lack of cooperation/witnesses," Thorne said. "These two investigators assigned to GIVE can devote more time to ultimately obtain a satisfactory closing to the case."

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How Elmira residents can have their say

City residents can take part in the survey by going to freeonlinesurveys.com/s/yXpqdjHT.

The survey includes 10 questions, covering topics such as greatest concerns regarding crime in the city, assessment of services provided by the police, whether the respondent has ever been a victim of crime in Elmira, and what additional police efforts people would like to see in their neighborhoods.

The survey will remain open for one month, starting Jan. 16, or until 1,000 responses are received.

"I would say that the benefit for residents would be that you could anonymously voice your concerns on this survey platform and be assured that all responses will be reviewed and taken under consideration," Thorne said.

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Elmira tapping into state program to address gun violence. Here's how residents can help (2024)
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