FORT WAYNE – The work of creating a plan to end violent crime in the city continued Friday evening at the third in a series of community meetings sponsored by the Fort Wayne Urban League.
About 100 people, including police officials and local leaders, came to the meeting at Fellowship Missionary Church on East Tillman Road.
Those in attendance split into groups focused on various topics – such as education, police and community relations, and mental and physical health services – and they discussed potential solutions to the problems that lead to violence.
What were trying to do is create a strategic initiative that is driven by the community, thats comprehensive and is something that all these people and more can take a stake into, said Jonathan Ray, Fort Wayne Urban League president and CEO.
Ray said he expects to hold several more meetings and that it probably wont be until years end when the finished plan will be shared with city leaders.
Its going to be a lot of hard work. Its going to take a lot of patience, he said.
More than 300 people attended the first meeting March 22, and about 180 people came to the second one April 12. With Fridays meeting seeing even lower attendance, Ray said he would like to have more people take part in the movement.
Just being apathetic about whats happening in our community is not going to be enough, he said. We have to step up and do our part so our children have a different life.
A spate of killings this year prompted the series of meetings. So far this year, 15 deaths in Fort Wayne and Allen County have been ruled homicides. Two of the homicides were the result of shootings by police, and one was from injuries suffered in a 1980 shooting.
I just hate seeing all the violence, Kayevonne Dailey said. It crushes my heart because it shows me that we dont see the value in another life.
Dailey, executive director of Friends of Bethany, a faith-based nonprofit group, said she does not want to see Fort Wayne go the way of Chicago, a city thats been plagued by gang violence.
I believe it takes all of us from various walks of life to come and address the problem, she said. I would love to see more people involved, especially from the church community.
For Richard Whitfield, his concern about violence on the south side, where he lives, brought him to the meeting, the second one hes attended.
The community kind of kept its eyes closed to the problem of violence, the 63-year-old said. Now were trying to corral something thats taking place and nobody really wanted to deal with until now its out of control.
A fourth meeting is planned for early June.