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Community leaders, neighbors talk gun violence after uptick in shootings

ELKHART, Ind. -- The city of Elkhart has seen an uptick in shootings since late June.

After more than a dozen shootings in the last month, city officials and community members gathered earlier today at Roosevelt Park in Elkhart to discuss the ongoing issue of gun violence.

Twenty.

That’s the number of shootings Elkhart Police confirm have occurred, most of them in the south side of Elkhart.

Now community members and city officials are taking steps to work together and solve the issue of gun violence.

The first step happened Wednesday afternoon when community members sat down in Roosevelt Park to address the uptick in gun violence the city of Elkhart has seen.

“I’m asking you again today as a citizen of this city, and life-long resident, please put the guns down,” said Robert Taylor, President of the Black Expo. “If you see something, say something. That’s the only way this is going to stop.”

Community leaders like Taylor spoke in length Wednesday afternoon about the uptick in gun violence in the south side of Elkhart.

Mayor Neese cited the shooting of a 13-year-old boy in early July.

“He suffered non-life threatening injuries, but that incident could have been much different,” said Mayor Neese. “This type of activity will not be tolerated by the Elkhart Police Department and it should not be tolerated by the citizens of Elkhart.”

ABC 57 News asked Mayor Neese if there is a connection between defunding the Tolson Center and the uptick in gun violence, “I don’t know that there is,” said Mayor Neese.

But others in the community, like Jesse Cruz, think investing in the Tolson Center would help the issue of gun violence.

“We have plenty of money in the city of Elkhart to provide for the programs that would help be proactive in regards to our youth, in regards to violence,” said Cruz. “What we know statistically is where you have high levels of poverty, you inherently have high levels of violence.”

Cruz criticized the mayor for funding redevelopment in downtown Elkhart rather than paying for programs like Tolson.

“Three hundred apartments? We need 5,000 homes,” said Cruz. “That’s barely scratching the surface, yet it’s taking up a majority of the money that our city has.”

Others, however, praised the mayor and police department for what they call an active community presence.

“I see a proactive mayor, a proactive police department, and a proactive community that wants to put programs in place that will give our young people things to do that does not include violence, that does not include crime,” said Reverend Dr. Dannell Brown. “I’m so happy that the Elkhart Police Department are beginning to do patrols that get to know the citizens. It’s much easier to stop something before it happens than it is to resolve it after it happens.”

Mayor Neese did say he has spoken to city council members and others about the Tolson Center.

He wants to emphasize that Tolson is very much a priority and will continue to remain one.

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