FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Aggravated assaults, which include shootings, are up 15 percent in the Summit City compared to 2011. Fort Wayne Police Chief Rusty York says part of that problem can be attributed to gangs and gun accessibility.
Wednesday, a drive-by shooting left 19-year-old Calvin Keys grazed by a bullet in his hip as he was cutting his grandmother’s grass in the 4600 block of Euclid Avenue. Of the multiple shots fired at Keys, three bullets flew astray, landing in a neighboring property. One bullet hit Gary and Deloris McKee’s truck, another hit the siding on their house and a third bullet was shot through the McKee’s kitchen window, nearly striking Deloris. It is one example of an increase of 33 incidents of aggravated assault witnessed in Fort Wayne this year compared to 2011.
Chief York says that while a specific number cannot be attributed to the aggravated assaults, he did say it is fair to say that many of them are gang related. York says it is tough to pinpoint exactly what is leading to the increase in violent activity among gang members, but he says there too many young, irresponsible men who turn to gangs or cliques for acceptance or increased self-esteem who are also possessing firearms.
“We’ve got irresponsible young people with guns and have no hesitation using these guns. They’re primarily focused at other gang members but we have had other innocent people caught in the crossfire.”
In the instance of Wednesday’s shooting on Euclid Avenue, in which Deloris McKee says a bullet nearly struck her, York says it is tough to calm the fears that come with a shooting next door.
“My telling her that we’re addressing the issue is not going to alleviate her fear. Hopefully what will though is when we are able to take these people off of the street and we have them in prison or in jail and we all notice a down tick in these incidents.”
Wednesday’s shooting on Euclid Avenue near Pettit Avenue was the second shooting on that corner this summer. The first occurred May 18.
York says that to clean up the streets of violent criminals, the Fort Wayne Police Department is working closely with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, FBI and the U.S. Marshalls to investigate and combat criminal activity.
“We’re looking specifically at gangs. We’re gathering a lot of intelligence, making a lot of arrests whenever we can, but you know we’re focusing all of our resources on eliminating the people who are involving themselves in gang related violent crime,” he says.
York also says they continue to work on their partnerships on the community level. More specifically, the department is engaged with area churches and their pastors. York says Fort Wayne police will work on redeveloping a series of ministerial police academies, something the department utilized in the early 2000s. York says those exercises do what is most important when trying to develop a relationship with the people he is trying to protect, and that is face to face dialogue. York says pastors are many times the first resource for members of the Fort Wayne community in need of help.
“A lot of members in our community, they don’t go to a counsel person or a police chief or the mayor. They go to their pastor, and I think we’ve got a good relationship with the faith based community, but it can always improve. That’s what we’re working on.”
Another issue York says it is time confront is the issue of gun accessibility. He says it is time for a national dialogue about who can buy guns and under which parameters they are able to be purchased.
“We can’t afford nationally to just say, ‘Well, that’s, you know, that’s the way it is. That’s the second amendment,’ and just keep going. We have to do something about it because it’s just getting worse and worse.”
York says police chiefs throughout the country agree with him and discuss this issue with him at annual conferences. He says he also believes chiefs of modern departments agree there are too many guns on the streets for police to combat.
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