ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – During an exclusive interview with 18 News on Thursday, Elmira Police Chief Anthony Alvernaz confirmed that the recent uptick in shootings across the city is “gang violence.”

“We’re still trying to get a grasp on it. We do believe these are factions within the city that are kind of having a bit of a back and forth with each other in regards to disagreement arguments, business-type endeavors.”

The rise in gun violence has been felt in Elmira as recently as Wednesday evening when police investigated two reports of shots fired on the 400 block of Mackey Place within three hours of each other.

“I wish I could give you a definitive answer of why it’s actually hitting us so hard right now,” said Alvernaz.

The Chief added that a “vacuum” can be created when police arrest a group member or leader off the streets, leading to members fighting for power in the group or “business,” which could involve drugs, sex trafficking, or guns.

“Other organizations and people from that particular organization try to move up and or take over those dealings,” said Alvernaz

Chief Alvernaz says Elmira shouldn’t be “singled out” as a place where gun violence is prominent, adding that it’s an issue being seen throughout New York due to the bail reform laws enacted in 2020.

“That time where we have the opportunity to have all parties settle, let the dust settle, we don’t have that anymore. The people that should be locked up at least for the night or even a few days if it’s serious enough are right back out on the street.”

Chief Alvernaz says the groups who are fighting in the city are “groups of people who’re familiar with each other and they do have tight associations with support.”

Chief Alvernaz says the city is done with the “gun play” that’s happening across the area and that the community needs to step up to help police bring it to an end.

“We can not be putting up with this. It takes everybody, call in when they see something. Everybody knows what their community looks like what the neighborhood looks like and if there’s something suspicious I think most people can identify with that. We’re just asking for a phone call.”