City officials work to combat surging gun violence
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- “It’s an epidemic in our community and our kids are dying sometimes at the rate of 2 or 3 a month. It’s important we fix this problem, and it’s important we fix it as soon as we can,” said Troy Warner, Committee Chair of the South Bend Common Council.
Monday, the South Bend Common Council, South Bend Police Department, Group Violence Intervention (GVI) Program, and community members met virtually to discuss gun violence across the city—and what can be done to stop it. Officials report that gun violence has increased during the year of 2020, specifically among young people.
“They talk about flattening the curve with COVID-19, but we have to do that with gun violence as well. That is why we have to adjust on the fly when we are dealing with a group that becomes violent,” said Captain Dan Skibins, Head of SBPD Strategic Task Force Unit.
According to the South Bend Police Department, there have been 120 shootings so far this year. Twenty of these shootings have turned deadly. Officials also report that out of the total number of shootings, 68 of the victims were under the age of 25. Additionally, 14 of the 20 victims killed were in that same age group.
Officials say the sudden surge this year is attributed to the COVID-19 crisis lockdowns. The S.A.V.E. Outreach Program is one aspect of the GVI program and is determined to reverse the troubling trend.
“One of the things the SAVE outreach team is designed to do is be an interrupter of violence. When shootings happen, we are called on the scene as community support to be the mediator to the police department and the situation,” said Pastor Canneth Lee, Director of S.A.V.E.
South Bend Police Chief, Scott Ruszkowski, saying that gun violence prevention is more than just the responsibility of one program but the entire community.
“People talk about interrupters and interventions, and I am totally not against that. But we have them and they are called family, friends and the community. Those need to be utilized and why they are not being utilized escapes me. It used to be that way it used to be when people would step up and step in,” said Chief Ruszkowski.
The calls for action are growing louder among neighbors as well.
“The open dialogue is much needed in the city and among others in surrounding areas so that we can clear up the violence in South Bend,” said South Bend resident, Dawn Horst.