Citizens, Police, Tackle Gun Violence Problem - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Citizens, Police, Tackle Gun Violence Problem

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The outbreak of gun violence over the past few days has left several people injured, and a community, deeply concerned.

It prompted a special meeting at the Blasco Library of local neighborhood crime watch groups,  police officers, and worried citizens to try and find a solution.

Tuesday marked the fourth day in a row that gun violence erupted in Erie.

"It's just very concerning because I am a parent of a young male. And I also work at a program where there's a lot of young children with behavioral issues. It's just very concerning. Something needs to be done," said Deborah Cole, a lower east Erie resident at the meeting with her son, James.

There are things that we should not tolerate that impact our quality of life and our safety. When kids are not able to go outside and play without the possibility of being harmed, something's wrong with that," said Steve Simmelkjaer, chairman of the neighborhood watch council.

The rash of violence is a challenging issue to address because the Erie Police Department has limited resources. There are 174 officers total, down from 207 officers in 2003.

But there is a way for citizens to help out.

Officers say it's important for citizens to be good witnesses. That means when one hears shots fired, to report the incident by calling 911, because it is considered an emergency.

"Know how many shots they heard, what direction those shots came from, or if they happen to see a vehicle or any individuals running, if they could get a description of their clothing or car," said Lieutenant John Noland of the Erie Police Department. "We do have reluctant witnesses and victims a lot of the time, which makes it tough for us," he said.

Police also suspect gang affiliations behind the shooting activity.

"It appears that there are certain groups going back and forth with each other. We're not sure what it's about," Noland said.

Cole, who works at Sarah Reed Children's Center, says she also hears rumors of gang activity from some of the students she works with.

"I hear rumors of teen gang affiliations. Sometimes as employees, we have no idea about these things until the children bring it to us," Cole said.

"I think it was a very productive meeting. I'm just hoping for some proactive things to be done this summer before the crime goes a little too far," Cole said. 

A Project Safe Neighborhood grant will allow the Erie Police Department to have extra patrols out on the streets starting in June.

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