SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - June in general is off to a rough start in South Bend where shootings are concerned.
There have been 11 shootings in the city limits in the first 12 days of the month.
Early last Thursday morning, 28 shell casings were recovered on and around Meade Street, where two men allegedly opened fire on an occupied vehicle with the police department's own Nuisance Abatement Vehicle parked nearby.
“We had our armadillo parked in front of a house, so they don't care,” Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski said. “But we do, and it’s going to stop, one way or the other.”
While 23-year-old Stefon Gaines and 24-year-old Steven Gaines II appear to be the latest part of the gun violence problem for their alleged involvement in the Meade Street incident, a program called Stand Against Violence Everyday, or SAVE, has been part of the solution for the past year and a half.
“We respond after every shooting, whether it’s at the scene or at the hospital,” SAVE leader Isaac Hunt said. “I think we've been doing a pretty good job. We’re on pace to already have talked to, in the city, close to 12,000 people this year.”
SAVE has steered shooting victims and/or their relatives toward things like counseling, education and employment services while steering them away from thoughts of retaliation.
“We never hear about the [shootings] that we have prevented. I can honestly say that I know that we have prevented at least three or four shootings that took place just by us having conversations and better relationships,” Hunt added.
Hunt said that in 2017, the city had 102 shootings. In 2018, a year during which SAVE was on the scene for about six months, that number dropped to 78.
“It’s affecting our neighborhoods. It’s affecting our city as a whole, and families are living with this trauma after the shooting is over and the child is buried. Who is there to comfort them? We're doing the best we can, and we need more help to be able to do this role,” Hunt said. “Our role is the carrot and not the stick. We get a chance to be able to offer service to individuals that may need them. And our job is to try and eliminate the barriers and allow them to have a different lifestyle.