Regional
1:00 am
Tue August 13, 2013

Concerned About Shootings? Community Activists Say Be Vigilant

A rash of shootings in Milwaukee this month has left seven people dead and 16 injured.

City residents have heard the reports almost daily but what should people do with the information?

Steve Jerbi exists amid the pain. He’s pastor at All People’s Church in Milwaukee’s central city. He says members gather to pray for those hurting, nearly every Sunday.

“This is not a news flash. These are our neighbors. These are our family members. These are folks we go to church with. It has become commonplace certainly at my church that when we pray together it’s for a neighbor or family member whose been a victim of this,” Jerbi says.

Jerbi supports the city’s effort to put more officers in neighborhoods where shootings have been concentrated.

He says he wishes though, that law enforcement would interact personally with residents.  The pastor says, too often, officers ride through neighborhoods – sometimes on bikes or horseback, but don’t stop to chat.

As for residents, he says be pro-active, where you live.

“You have to know what’s going on in your block and in the blocks around. Some of it happens with throwing a block party, inviting your neighbors for a barbeque. Some of it means if you see a group of folks standing on the corner and you feel nervous about it, get to know their names, we’re afraid to even know our neighbors and we need to overcome that and build a stronger sense of community,” Jerbi says.

Steve Fendt suggests residents exchange phone numbers with at least one or two trusted neighbors. Fendt directs the Southside Organizing Committee. He says neighbors often raise concerns about crime at the group’s meetings. He tells people, if something doesn’t look right, call police.

“If there’s drug activity going on, if there’s loud music, these things are all things you can report,” Fendt says. Fendt says vigilance can help prevent violence from escalating.

Gracelyn Wilson works with the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation. She says people have an obligation to act, when others are hurt.

“If there’s a robbery in your neighborhood, even though you may not be affected by it directly, the community needs to come out and see what they can do to help, which could be passing out flyers to educate people as to what’s going on in the neighborhood or what resources are available,” Wilson says.

Wilson helped organize a prayer vigil in the Sherman Park neighborhood for shooting victims over the weekend. She says she was moved by the number of people from the suburbs, who attended.