Note from aGuyonClematis: This was sent out on the City of West Palm Beach insider mailing list, I am reposting it here for your convenience.
You have no doubt heard about the recent rash of shootings taking place in our city’s north end. To say this violence is unacceptable and will not be tolerated is the usual comment we public officials make at times like this. They are easy positions to take and make good material for sound bites. But it is not enough.
What they don’t do is cut to the heart of why these shootings are happening, or why our police department is facing significant challenges in arresting the shooters
Tragically our city does not have an exclusive on gun violence. It is a horrible reflection of our society that if you Google “movie theater shooting,” you now must specify which one you are seeking. I have long been focused on getting illegal weapons off our streets.
Last year we held a gun buy back program during which we collected over three hundred weapons. I am a member of Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns whose only focus is reducing the number of illegal weapons in our cities. But while getting the guns off our streets will help, the guns themselves are not the most significant obstacle facing our police department.
Our police have significantly increased patrols in the area. In many cases they know the young people involved. But our officers cannot arrest suspects and our prosecutors cannot convict criminals if no one is willing to come forward and help.
I understand the reluctance to come forward. It is based in fear. Fearful victims refuse to talk to officers about what happened and choose instead to seek revenge on their own terms. We have one case where a young teenage victim told his mother he knows who shot him but refuses to tell even her who it is.
And the refusal to cooperate extends beyond victims. Fear creates a situation where our detectives cannot find witnesses to these shootings. One shooting took place in front of a neighborhood party of over three dozen people, yet not a single witness has come forward.
This puts our police officers in the impossible position of trying to stop this wave of violence on their own.
Unfortunately our young people find it easier to reach for a gun than to reach for help.
On Wednesday of this past week we held a meeting with approximately two dozen clergy and community leaders. It is my hope that these men and women will do everything in their power to encourage our residents to join us in publicly standing up against violence.
In addition we decided to walk the community and reach out to those who live there. Together we must assure them we are there for them.
But there must be more. We need your help. If you see something or know something reach out to me or to your Pastor or to a community leader you trust.
Help us help you. Help us help our community.
It is easy for me to shout from the mountain top that this violence will not be tolerated. What we need is for all of us to stand together and work together to take back our city.