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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Lisa Terry and Bob Gould of the AIDS Task Force hang red ribbons around Freimann Square on Friday.

Group maps anti-violence plan for city leaders

– 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 we’re trying to do is create a strategic initiative that is driven by the community, that’s 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 won’t be until year’s end when the finished plan will be shared with city leaders.

“It’s going to be a lot of hard work. It’s 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 Friday’s meeting seeing even lower attendance, Ray said he would like to have more people take part in the movement.

“Just being apathetic about what’s 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 don’t 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 that’s 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 he’s attended.

“The community kind of kept its eyes closed” to the problem of violence, the 63-year-old said. “Now we’re trying to corral something that’s taking place and nobody really wanted to deal with until now it’s out of control.”

A fourth meeting is planned for early June.

aingersoll@jg.net

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