Christina Wolfe-Snyder was with her seven-year-old son in the kitchen of their Prospect Street home when her 13-year-old daughter ran in.
“[She] said, ‘Mommy, I think I hear gunshots,’” Christina said a week later. “I’m like, ‘I don’t think so baby,’ and so I walked outside and then we knew it [happened], because we heard people yelling.”
A man was severely wounded after taking a bullet to the hip in the Sept. 15 shooting, according to Hudson police.
He was the seventh person shot in the city of 6,400 since the beginning of May.
“It’s really horrible,” Christina said. “It’s got to the point where we can’t sit on the back porch because it scares my kids, and it keeps my daughter up at night with nightmares…she’s afraid to go anywhere or do anything.”
Christina is less than a minute’s walk from most of the shootings, and said she has curtailed her children’s activities because she fears the rash of violence will continue, not allowing them to walk around the neighborhood and driving them short distances to their friends’ houses. She raises her children in the same house where she grew up, but said she now wants to move, perhaps out of the city to Greenport, a suburb of Hudson.
“I need to make sure my children are protected at all times, so if that means I have to move out of my dad’s house…I will do it, because it’s getting pretty bad down here,” she said.
Jojo Dzielski lives on Short Street, a stone’s throw from Christina. She used to ride her bike down State Street to work, but changed her routine this summer.
“After the first set…where those two little kids were shot and I thought, ‘Jesus Christ,’” Jo-Jo said. “I remember reading about how they were kind of — obviously there is no reason to shoot a two-year-old, so they were just in the way, so I just thought, ‘well, I don’t want to be in the way.’”
William “Billy” Hughes, the supervisor of the Fourth Ward, which includes part of the area where the violence has been centered, said the prevailing emotion among his constituents with regards to the shootings is fear.
“Oh, it’s definitely on their minds,” he said.
“It’s very unnerving for a lot of people,” he added.
There have been eight shooting incidents since May 1, according to Hudson police, including an Aug. 13 drive-by that wounded a woman and two toddlers, and the Aug. 22 murder of Kevin L. Whitening, who was shot in the chest in front of a house on Third Street.
At least seven of the shootings are related, according to Hudson police, and are described as a feud between two groups of “known criminals.”
The violence has so far been confined to the northern end of the city.
Hudson Questions the Police
Common Council Police Committee meetings are usually not very well-attended in Hudson unless something goes wrong. This Monday, about 30 people showed up to the meeting, leveling concerns and offering aid to Hudson’s police chief, Ed Moore.
Allison Murphy lives on North Fifth Street, and said the Sept. 14 shooting of DiQuann Powell happened right in front of her house.
She offered to have security cameras set up on her property, and asked if cameras were being used as part of the investigation.
Hardwired cameras set up around the city were taken offline when the police station relocated from Warren Street to larger, more modern facilities on Union Street in April, Moore said.
“We do have surveillance cameras in the area,” he clarified.
Several people, including the grandmother of DiQuann, asked why there wasn’t more community policing and foot patrols in the city.
The Hudson Police Department only has 25 employees, of which 12-14 are patrol officers, meaning there are only 2-4 officers patrolling the city at any time, Moore responded.
Kamal Johnson, who is set to become a First Ward Alderman later this year after placing second in the democratic primary, questioned the police department’s insistence an officer was across the street from the Aug. 13 shooting that injured two toddlers and a woman.
An officer was across the street from the residence and Det. Nick Pierro was in a marked patrol car up the street, Moore responded.
There have yet to be any arrests for that shooting, or any of the eight shooting incidents. A police raid conducted Aug. 23 on 525, 527 and 527 ½ State Street resulted in only minor arrests for misdemeanor drug possession and possession of a collapsible baton. Michael A. Johnson, 31, was also charged Aug. 18 with illegally possessing a handgun while allegedly taking photographs of a home on State Street, according to Hudson police.
Moore also faced questions at the meeting about whether the shootings were gang-related.
The rumor the shootings were due to a dispute between the Crips and the Bloods was not accurate, Moore said, using “factions” and “parties” to describe the warring groups.
The department, however, was probing the factions’ affiliation with other gangs, he added.
“It plays into what you’ve seen happening this summer,” Moore said.
Effects on Youth
Joan “Joanie” Hunt is the project director of Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood, a community organization that seeks to help “break through the intergenerational cycle of poverty” experienced by many of the youth in Hudson, according to their website.
There was no one prevailing emotion among kids in the program with regards to the shootings, but there was a split between the teenagers, who knew a lot about the shootings, and younger children, who were not as aware of what was going on, Joanie said.
Then there were the children who actually witnessed the shootings.
“We may not see it now, but [witnessing the shootings] of course has a huge impact…we may not see the effects of that right away, but we know that violence and any type of adversity in the first few years of life has a really significant long-term impact on kids,” she said.
The violence has a “trickle-down effect” in the community, from the actual victims of the shootings to their relatives and friends, Joanie said.
A Spike in Crime?
Crime rates in Hudson has been declining for years, but the summer shootings have led to a spike in the crime statistics.
Available crime statistics compiled by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services only go back to 2012, well into Hudson’s renaissance, but even these show crime is on the decline.
The statistics, which do not yet include 2017’s numbers, show there were 32 violent crimes, which include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, in 2012, compared with 20 in 2016. Property crime, which includes burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft, fell 54 percent, from 285 crimes in 2012 to 131 crimes in 2016.
However, statistics provided by the police department show at least a partial reversal in that trend during 2017.
There were 57 reported assaults so far in 2017, compared with 35 in the same period in 2016, an increase of about 40 percent. Reported domestic disputes and reports of harassment rose slightly, according to the statistics.
Excluding the accidental shooting, seven people have been shot in Hudson so far this year, or one out of every 914 people. As comparison, 2,833 people were shot in Chicago this year, or one out of 955.
Billy Hughes, the fourth ward supervisor, said he views the recent violence as “an anomaly” when compared to the more consistent crime Hudson experienced in the 1990s.
Billy lost a friend, Mike Davis, during this period, who was murdered outside the old Savoia bar.
The crack epidemic ran through Hudson during this time, which Billy partially blames on Rudy Giuliani, saying the former New York City Mayor pushed the crack trade out of the city and into upstate, and crack suppliers rode the Amtrak to Hudson when the heat was turned up in the city.
At the Police Committee meeting, Chief Moore admitted Amtrak is still one of the ways Hudson gets its drugs — though the main product was now heroin.
“Unfortunately, they used the train as stops, so they stopped in Hudson and Schenectady and made upstate terrible, because [Giuliani] pushed them all out of down there,” Billy said. “So crack hit Hudson in the late 80s, early 90s, and it hit Hudson hard, and I seen a lot of good friends and family members that got really addicted to crack — and it was quickly — and I saw a lot of people that took up [the drug trade] to make money. I saw a lot of our young people turn to prostitution. It really leads to a bad lifestyle.”
“It was a tough time for Hudson,” he continued. “We’re not there now. This is different.”
The violence was confined to the two groups, as opposed to being more wide-spread, Billy said.
John Schobel, who owns a string of AirBnBs across the city, said he was concerned the publicity from the shootings made it appear the entire city was infected by violence, saying he understood the violence was confined to “a personal vendetta amongst a small group of individuals.”
A potential guest expressed concern about the shootings, John said, adding he didn’t recall if the person eventually booked.
His rooms are booked solid, John said, and he hadn’t seen any decrease of bookings in the wake of the shootings.
Hudson residents wanted two things to happen, Billy said.
“One, that this doesn’t spread outside the confines of where it is, but two, that it comes to a swift end anywhere in the city of Hudson,” he said.