Stuart town hall meeting about rise in gun crime

Posted at 12:07 AM, Dec 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-09 00:07:43-05

STUART, Fla. -- Stuart city leaders and police are calling on the community to help control growing gun violence in the city, particularly in East Stuart.

Mayor Kelli Glass Leighton hosted a first ever town hall meeting related to crime in East Stuart to focus on tackling gun violence.

Police also unveiled a new approach to stopping and solving violent crimes.

Stuart Police say there have been 17 confirmed shootings in Stuart so far in 2015, injuring 5 people.

In 2014, police say there were 11 shootings.

None of the shootings have been fatal, and police want to ensure it stays that way.

"We're not used to that kind of stuff in this community," said East Stuart resident Albert Brinkley.

Brinkley says he's also a youth baseball coach, and shots were fired near the baseball field near 10th street about a month ago.

"They say one of the suspects ran that direction toward the baseball field and we had to leave the field, and to this day, it's been almost a month and I'm still upset," Brinkley said.

Police and city leaders spoke to nearly one-hundred residents at the meeting Tuesday night about ways for police and residents to work together to reverse the crime trend.

Police say they've increased patrols and crime suppression efforts and have been asking the community to report information.

But, they say people are not talking to police, and criminals hide during their patrols.

They've been trying to solve shootings with traditional investigating techniques, but say they're not finding enough evidence.

That's why they're changing their tactics.

Police are asking volunteers to come forward to set up East Stuart's first Crime Watch.

They want residents to publicly support police to help build trust.

Sign up sheets were also put out at the meeting for residents to hold anti-gang and anti- gun signs on their streets.

Police are planning more walking patrols and creating a ministry network with contact numbers for pastors and church leaders. Police say that way, they can quickly relay crime information to church leaders to pass along to their congregations to encourage people to report crimes and live peacefully.