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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Increased Violence Spurring Action from Community Leaders, Residents

GlasserA recent spate of shootings, that took four lives and the fatal shooting of a Phoenix Police Officer, has spurred local community leaders to take action and search for answers.

This is the time to take action. It’s not time to attend meetings to blow off steam or organize a protest march, said Pastor Terry Marks.

Marks, other community leaders and concerned residents gathered at the South Mountain Community Center last month to discuss their concerns and seek possible solutions.

“We want to come together as community leaders and come away with at least one actionable item to improve our community,” said Marks, a resident of Laveen and Pastor of the Wordcenter Church also in Laveen. “Maybe not something on a grand scale, but at least one actionable item.”

Four people were shot to death last month in the area of 20th Street and Broadway. On May 18, Phoenix Police Officer David Glasser was shot to death while exiting his vehicle at a crime scene in Laveen.

“It is not just an issue of gun violence, it is an issue of increasing violent crime,” said Marks.” I say that for a reason.”

He went on to explain that a few weeks ago on April 16 in the middle of the day a 16-year-old and his companion were stabbed in broad daylight. They ran into the library seeking shelter and then to Cesar Chavez High School where the 16-year-old collapsed. He died later at the hospital.

“I wanted the community to gather so we can take the initiative as to what we can do to improve the well-being of our community,” he said. “We need to decide what action to take.”

This is not about organizing a march or anything similar that has been done in the past.

The results of the meeting were issued in a report that concentrated on the root causes, outcomes and possible solutions to the increasing violence on the Southside.

The report said the cause of the violence include underfunded schools and after-school programs that are based on fees, which block membership to those who cannot afford the fees. Also that communities are disconnected and divided by generations and race. It was stated there was a lack of resources for families in need and better relations are needed with police. And finally those with criminal records need access with higher paying jobs.

Among the solutions offered were making sure everyone has equitable education opportunities, increasing youth programs and improving youth employment opportunities, the report said.

Offering affordable housing and improving community policing would go a long way to creating a healthy community, it said.

“There are some programs out there, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Marks said.

Still, one of the major problems is youth who have nothing to keep them out of trouble because of few youth programs.

“The city promised Laveen a youth facility. Instead we got a dog park. That was disheartening,” Marks said. “The representatives from the city council office said the community center in still on board, but it is an $18 million project and they want to make sure it is fully funded.”

Marks said that in many ways it is up to the residents of South Phoenix and Laveen to shed the stigma of “another shooting. Ho hum. No one cares.”

“Let us take the initiative to bring about change,” he said.

There was a good representation of neighborhood leaders at the meeting said Channel Powe who sits on the board of the Balsz School District and who is also president of the Black Caucus of the Arizona School Board Association.

She said many community members were notified of the meeting by flyers delivered door-to-door.

“We reached out to community members who are not always invited to these types of events. Door-to-door is a good way to connect with people,” she said.

The recent shootings are a “cry for help,” said Powe.

Phoenix Police Lt. Tina Gonzales, the resource lieutenant for the South Mountain Precinct said the residents there have always cared about their community.

“When something like this happens, nobody wants to go back to the way it was years ago back in the early 1990s,” she said. “Things are so much better now. The neighborhoods are cleaner and there is not as much violence.”

Gonzales said they should keep doing what they are doing.

“We are reaching out to them and they are reaching out to their own community,” she said. “It’s a team effort. We can’t do it without them.”

To be even more helpful she asks people to call police when they see something.

“Some are afraid to call and we are asking them to call us even anonymously or Silent Witness. They see things most times before we do.”

The next meeting will be scheduled for the near future, Marks said. These meetings are open to anyone who would like to attend.

Let’s not wait until the next shooting. Let’s talk right now,” he said.

To learn more or for information on the next meeting, call Marks at 602-568-5786.




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