Fort Pierce, St. Lucie County residents tell leaders how to solve gun violence problem

Meeting brings out hundreds

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Fort Pierce and St. Lucie County law enforcement officials say they've responded to nearly 150 reports of gunfire already this year.

Fort Pierce Police Chief Sean Baldwin says 35 people have been shot and five people have died. And only one homicide has been solved because the shooter shot himself.

Those statistics are why hundreds of residents met with city, county, and state leaders to develop an action plan to decrease gun violence Wednesday night.

Warren Kelly is a football coach for the Treasure Coast Bengals. He says more than half his team used to be in a gang.

Giving them something to do, he says, is what changed their lifestyles. "i've seen a change with a lot of these young men," Kelly said.

Running back Storcha Smith said the team has made him a better person. "Im a better father to my kid and a better person to the community," Smith said.

Smith and Kelly agree giving teens and young adults things to do decreases violence on the street.

State Representative Larry Lee, Sheriff Ken Mascara, and Chief Sean Baldwin were among more than a dozen leaders who heard other ideas from the community.

"The police force needs to work more with the community," said Kelly.

On the other hand, Baldwin says the community needs to work more with police, and come forward with vital information to solve crimes.  "They have this they shouldn't be a snitch feeling, and it hurts us," Baldwin explained.

Leaders presented various plans to decrease violence. They included new job opportunities, mentoring opportunities, and incentives for employers to open more jobs.

Baldwin said he is also applying for a grant that would allow the department to install gunshot detecting devices.

Law enforcement also plans on adding more foot and bike patrols, enhancing a crime tip line, and giving warning letters to parents of gang members so they know what their kids are doing.

But among many other ideas, some say they've heard this all before.

"Lip service. I'm going to be the first one to say it's lip service," said resident Christopher WIlliams.

He said law enforcement needs to maintain a stronger presence on the streets, and interact more with the community. He organizes marches and peace rallies, and extends an invitation for city leaders to join them. "They never come, they always say they're going to come but they never show up," said Williams.

"The solution is to have everybody come together as one," Smith said.

 

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