Local law enforcement and community leaders involved in the South Bend Group Violence Intervention (SBGVI) met Friday to discuss the initiative’s second “call in” at the Charles Martin Youth Center.
Members of South Bend-area street groups were called to meet with local leaders to talk about putting down the guns and seeking peaceful resolution to conflict.
Among those in attendance Friday were representatives from the South Bend Police Department, Chief of Police Ron Teachman, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Cliff Johnson, St. Joseph County Prosecutor Mike Dvorak and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Ken Cotter, Bishop Eddie Miller, Isaac Hunt of Goodwill Industries and twice arrested bank robber, Jay Wade.
Wade is a native South Bend resident who has dedicated his life to helping others get back on the straight and narrow, and has the first-hand knowledge to tell them how to do just that.
In February 2011, Wade got a full time position through the work release program and has since held three full-time positions.
“When I got out of prison, I was lost,” said Wade.
He did two stints in maximum security prison for armed robbery, the first time he was only 18 years old.
“First day, I had seen a guy get stabbed. It really shell shocked me,” said Wade.
When SBGVI held its call in with members of local street groups, Wade bore his soul and shared the story of his arrest, incarceration and rehabilitation.
“If I would’ve heard ‘you’re going to get 30, 40 years for this, you’re not going to see your family again, no one is going to come visit you,’ it would’ve changed my mind state instantly.”
The crime reduction initiative aims to change the mind set of these known criminal associates and focus their attention on peaceful resolution and community resources to help them get jobs and education.
Twenty-seven individuals were asked to attend, out of which four were inexcusably absent.
Penalties for those who failed to show up could range from enhanced enforcement by parole to possible jail time. Law enforcement wants these individuals to know that participation and communication is mandatory.
“They’re most likely to be the shooters because of their activities in the past and their associations,” explained Lt. Dominic Zultanski, SBGVI operations manager, “There is also 900-percent more chance to be the victims of gun violence”
Shootings have decreased in South Bend since the initiative went into effect on May. From May 15 to August 28 there were 20 shootings in South Bend, of which 14 were criminal, 2 fatal, 1 suicide and 3 accidental. While law enforcement said 20 is 20 too many for such a short span, the numbers are about 37-percent lower than that same period in 2013 and 2012.
The decrease is promising.
Isaac Hunt offered his personal cell phone number to the young men attending the call in and said he has received numerous calls from individuals asking for some form of assistance.
“Many of these young men need help, need guidance,” Hunt explained, “One of the first steps is changing the mindset, the thinking process.”
Should the message of community assistance and non-violence fail to have the desired ripple effect through the most violent neighborhoods, law enforcement has promised “swift and certain consequences.”
Chief of Police Ron Teachman made it clear to the media and to the individuals at the call in that police take “no pleasure” in arresting young men and women for these crimes, however, if violence continues to prevail then they have no choice but to seek legal justice.