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‘We are going after our children’

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November 12 – A shooting in the Spring and Cole Streets in July has reignited the fight against gun violence in Lima. Will the incident be a turning point?

LIMA — In late July, a 10-year-old girl was struck by a bullet as she left a family gathering in Cole and Spring Streets.

It was the second time the girl, one of two people injured that night, had been caught in a crossfire following the death of DeJuan Adams 26 days earlier. But it also revived efforts to mediate conflict, treat generational trauma and examine the city’s response to gun violence.

“At that point, enough is enough for me,” said Mayor Sharetta Smith, who organized several listening sessions after the shooting to solicit feedback from the community. “This is a 10-year-old, and this is something she will remember for the rest of her life.”

‘A deep pain’

Frustrated by the shootings, members of the Lima Area Black Ministerial Alliance organized their own forum in August with administrators from Lima schools, discussing the toll the city’s gun violence has had on students.

Few members of the congregation were present.

“We just want the violence to stop and find better ways, different ways to handle disputes,” said Cleven Jones, a Shiloh Baptist Church pastor and member of the LABMA Gun Violence Task Force, which is trying to find an outlet for young people. unsupervised and to mediate conflicts. before they become deadly.

“We’re going after our kids,” said Rev. Tommy Pitts, a former 5th ward councilor and member of the LABMA task force. “That’s what we do to save lives.”

The mission is personal to many LABMA members, who are often called upon to praise the dead and testify in court.

“Nine times out of 10 it’s a child they know…we couldn’t reach,” said Rev. Arthur Butler, Providence Baptist Church pastor and LABMA president. “That’s a deep pain.”

Cycles of Trauma

In September, Lima had its own branch of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, an advocacy group working to expand access to trauma recovery centers, preventatives, and rehabilitation in Ohio and other states.

The department was founded by Lima-born Dyesha Darby, a statewide CSSJ manager who recently lost two family members and a mentee to gun violence in her hometown, giving fellow crime survivors a space to meet and interact. to stand up for himself.

“We know that when trauma isn’t addressed, violence happens,” said Darby, who would like to see a comprehensive trauma center in Lima one day. “If people don’t have the tools they need, they end up contributing to those cycles of crime in toxic ways: drinking too much, fighting, different kinds of violence.”

Smith praised the effort, saying the city is open to ongoing discussions about bringing a trauma center to Lima: “It really focuses on that healing: how do you get families to move beyond something as damaging and devastating as a survivor of gun violence,” she said.

A shift in patrols

Residents attending the city’s listening sessions spoke of the lack of oversight of young people involved in juvenile delinquency; the need for a central location where families can access services; and the desire for police to develop deeper relationships with the community, Smith said.

Shortly afterward, the Lima Fire Department announced they would be conducting random occupancy checks to prevent the bars from becoming overcrowded, while the Lima Police Department identified neighborhoods in need of extra patrols and purchased gunshot detection software to help officers respond more quickly to shootings — and deter gunmen all together. .

“We realized we weren’t in the areas where we needed to be and we weren’t distributing our manpower fairly across the city,” said Lima Police Chief Angel Cortes, who said officers now “feel like they’re part of the squad.” neighborhood” since LPD started giving permanent assignments, instead of having officials change per shift.

The city plans to purchase at least 77 street lamps next year and continue to remove destroyed properties to make neighborhoods feel safer, Smith said. And by spring, Smith plans to launch a new program to get teens and young adults into employment, citing the “strong correlation” between poverty, crime and gun violence.

Survivors of crime for safety and justice

The next meeting is Thursday, November 17 at 6:00 PM at the Bradfield Community Center, 550 S. Collett St., Lima. Register online at https://mobilize.us/s/M6wWCE.