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Elected officials request community assistance to stop violence

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A crowd of state, county and city officials gathered Monday morning to publicly address violence in the community.

The South Bend Police Department says there have been around 70 criminal shootings and eight homicides this year.

“It’s a community issue, coming together and saying as a community one, that the violence must stop. Two, that we will not tolerate violence in the community. We’re better than that.” Council member Karen White explained.

“It makes it more personal, because I know the pain,” said white.

4 years ago White’s nephew had been shot and killed outside of a night club.

“I don’t think the pain ever goes away. I think we learn how to deal with it,” she said.

Years later, she’s leading a call to action addressing violence in her community.

“That’s somebody’s somebody. That is somebody’s family, that is somebody’s friend that is either laying on the ground covered by a sheet, eventually making their way into a funeral home.” South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski said.

The message from officials today: law enforcement can’t fight violence alone.

Officials could be heard pleading the community for help: “How are you all going to help, because this is a community issue.” “We need your help, we need your input, and most of all we need your courage.” “We have to encourage our young people; we have to encourage our families, for when they know information to share. Because they said, they know exactly what’s going on.”

But the elected officials also expressed that they are here to help: “You have purpose, and we value you.” “You want to put down that gun? Give us a call. We’ll help you put down that gun.” “We have resources available in our community, we’re here together with you. “

Officials say community assistance works. One recent example is last week’s sentencing and conviction of Henry Turner.

Turner will serve 100 years in prison for firing shots at 6 people in March.

Group Violence Intervention is the program that connects community leaders from all over the city to stop violence in the area. It is credited with Turner’s arrest.

GVI focuses on the most violent people in the city and gives them a way out of their current life styles.

Law enforcement and members of the community give people involved with violence two options.

The choice is either to stop the violence, or receive social services from over 70 different agencies.

“We prefer that method rather than throwing somebody in handcuffs and watching them go away for the rest of their lives,” Ruszkowski said.

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