Youngstown council meets to address gun violence

Youngstown Councilman Nate Pinkard and other council members address gun violence in the city.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It has been a violent couple of months in Youngstown, and city leaders are concerned about the number of murders.

Youngstown City Council members and newly-elected members met in Youngstown on Monday night to talk about what they can do to combat the issue.

Councilman Nate Pinkard, who represents the city’s third ward, said the community needs to stop the “senseless violence.”

“Once you pull that trigger, you cannot bring that bullet back again, and somebody’s life is taken and somebody else’s life is ruined for the rest of their lives,” he said.

From November 6 to December 3, there have been six murders in the city. Those victims include Erika Huff on Cleveland Street, killed November 6; Christopher Anderson on Montclair Avenue, November 7; Thomas Owens on West Myrtle, on November 14; Tony Brown, Jr. on Glenwood Avenue, November 16, Trey Chatman, near Wardle Ave. and West Liberty St., on Nov. 26, and Jeffrey Averette on High Street, December 3.

This year, there have been 22 homicides, up three from last year.

Map: Homicides in the Valley, 2015

Councilwoman Janey Tarpley represents the city’s sixth ward, where there have already been four murders. She said this is nothing new — the city has long had one of the highest crime rates in the U.S. But, she said, the city has been successful in decreasing violent crime as a whole, with a number of initiatives to reach out to the older young adults, who statistically seem to be committing the crimes.

Tarpley said council has the support of the Youngstown Police Department, with the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (C.I.R.V). The initiative offers support services to those violent offenders willing to change, prevention programming to youth in the community and engages and solicits community participation in delivering violence deterrence messages.

“I don’t believe we are having the situation that we are seeing in other parts of the country with our police department, so we need to take advantage of that,” Tarpley said.

Annie Gillam, the first ward councilwoman who organized Monday’s meeting, said she would like to see increased funding to the C.I.R.V. initiative.

“We have seen results,” she said, adding that she would like to make people more aware of the program.

C.I.R.V. is run by Guy Burney — a one man operation. Gillam proposed that Burney be given a staff, which would mean spending more money

“I think it’s better to put money into this kind of program, rather than the prison system,” she said.

The issue of stricter gun control laws in Youngstown was discussed.  Councilwoman-elect Anita Davis, a former police officer who will soon represent the sixth ward, said there are sufficient laws on the books right now.

“We have officers that are enforcing those laws. They are making arrests on an almost daily basis, taking guns up off the street. So the laws that are there are being enforced,” she said.

Pinkard said the police department can’t combat gun violence alone. It is up to the community to band together by reporting such incidents, he said.

“One of the things that disturbs me a lot in our communities is that people hear gunfire and nobody calls police,” he said. “Gunfire shouldn’t be a way of life. You shouldn’t hear that in your neighborhoods.”

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