Tuesdays City Council meeting will be dedicated to a discussion of the high number of killings this year and the plan that a group of Fort Wayne residents created in response to the violence.
The group, called Building Bridges to a Better Community, began in March after a string of shootings left five people dead in one week. After several meetings, the group unveiled its 33-page plan last month at Fort Wayne Urban League offices.
Jonathan Ray, Urban League president and CEO, said City Council members read about the antiviolence plan in the newspaper and scheduled a meeting to talk about what can be done to curb the bloodshed thats been plaguing the city. So far this year, 38 deaths in Fort Wayne and Allen County have been ruled homicides, eight more than last year and a 15-year high.
For City Council to put us on the agenda and be the only thing on the agenda, it speaks volumes in terms of the importance of the issue, said Ray, whos hoping for a standing-room-only crowd for the Tuesday meeting that begins at 5:30 p.m.
While anyones voice can be heard, the planned speakers include Ray, Andre Patterson, head of the Fort Wayne Commission on African American Males, and Cedric Walker, pastor of Joshuas Temple Church.
The antiviolence plan released last month made many recommendations on how to stop violence, including improving communication between police and residents.
One thing were going to talk about ... is just getting the community to understand that it really is their role to keep the peace, Ray said. It isnt uncommon to see open-air drug trafficking on the southeast side, but what happens most of the time, people see that, and they dont do anything.
Along with the issues surrounding crime, the plan seeks to fix problems, like unemployment, that lead to violence. It aims to improve preschool education and create more opportunities to receive GED certificates and train for better jobs.
Deadlines have been set for certain objectives. For instance, the goal to increase mentoring opportunities that effectively serve the youth population has a deadline of February 2014 – Ongoing. Ray explained the ongoing parts of the plan this way:
Its not just something that you start in September and end in January. Its something that is progressive and dynamic, and we hope will change how people live.
Ray said the plans success will be tracked through data on crime, education, employment, parents involvement in their childrens lives, poverty and access to mental and physical health services.
Right now, theres no mechanism in place for collecting and analyzing such data, but Ray is hopeful that a grant from the National League of Cities will help.
The grant, announced this month, gives the city of Fort Wayne a year of technical assistance to use data more effectively in resolving disparities between black males and their peers.
Asked if anything in the plan had been accomplished yet, Ray said one of the plans main successes so far has been starting a dialogue about the problem of violence.
There has never been as much talk about this issue as is right now and people trying to step up and do their part, he said, pointing to a page of the plan that lists 15 events and developments that have happened since March, such as a Gun Amnesty Day, an NAACP-sponsored march against violence, and the re-establishment of the Fort Wayne Commission on African American Males.
Another goal of the plan was to bring local leaders into the fold.
Ray said that along with City Council members, the plan has been received well by Mayor Tom Henry, Wayne Township Trustee Richard Stevenson, the regions state legislators and Indianas congressional delegation.