ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Albany County District Attorney David Soares calls the recent spike in gun violence “unacceptable”, claiming the blame rests solely with Governor Kathy Hochul and lawmakers at the Capitol.

“The police are doing their work, because they’re apprehending these individuals. They are removing that gun from that individual’s possession, but with these broken laws, we are unable to hold people accountable,” Soares says to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

Soares says about 80 people have been shot so far in the City of Albany since the start of 2022 with 20 happening between July 25th and August 28th alone.

In a press briefing titled “Summer 2022 in Review: Albany Has Forsaken the Black Community”, he says the shootings come as a constant cycle between perpetrators retaliating against each other, with innocent homeowners and bystanders caught in the crossfire. He further adds these shootings tend to happen in traditionally disenfranchised Black and brown communities.

“The disproportionality that exists now is one of violence in the same communities,” he says.

Wednesday, Soares turns his attention to Raise the Age laws. Under the current system, sixteen and seventeen year olds can no longer be charged as adults in most criminal cases. Soares sharing with news outlets a list of recent offenders, all of whom had previous offenses as juveniles.

“In the past, when a person was carrying a loaded firearm, that person would be removed from the community, they would be remanded, and they would be held accountable. Now, the same individuals are being stopped two, three, four times, repeatedly with loaded firearms,” he explains, referencing New York’s 2019 bail reform.

“If a 16 year old or 17 year old is carrying a loaded firearm, but doesn’t display the loaded firearm, the case gets to stay in Family Court. Now, it’s not legal for a 16 year old to have a loaded firearm,” he further gives the example. “On multiple occasions, [they’re] being arrested for possession of loaded firearms and just walking out of the courthouse.”

He says after two mass shootings in Albany in August—one injuring five on Central Avenue and another injuring six on Hudson Avenue—he says the state should be calling a special session to address whether the reforms are helping or hurting.

“If a mass shooting in Buffalo can prompt quick and swift action, then mass shootings in Albany should also prompt the same response,” Soares says.

Meanwhile, Governor Hochul’s office responds:

Governor Hochul is leading a comprehensive approach toward ending the gun violence epidemic, investing millions in gun violence prevention and victim assistance programs, including in Albany, convening regional gun violence listening sessions to hear directly from communities across the state, and working with law enforcement and leaders across New York on solutions to save lives, get guns off the streets, and make our communities safer.

Hazel Crampton-Hays, Governor Hochul’s Press Secretary

The Children’s Defense Fund—a major backer of Raise the Age laws—advocates on its website children should be met in a court that meets their developmental needs and not live with adult criminal records that prevent them from moving forward in life.

Soares says such a noble sentiment doesn’t mean much without corresponding investment into disenfranchised communities to reach kids before they turn to crime.

“You need to make significant investments in prevention strategies that are effective, and the reality is that we are lacking in those prevention strategies. Young people should not be going out in the community where they have no ability to engage in conflict resolution,” he says.

“The 10-year-old that you’re not paying attention to right now, that you’re not investing in right now, is going to be the same 15 year old that we are dealing with in the criminal justice system. If this is a state that’s really committed to prevention, then we need to put our money where our mouth is,” Soares further continues.