Dozens of people gather to discuss gun violence at Aurora Community Forum on Monday
DAWN | Some people are Costco members. Or Walgreens. Maisha Fields is a member of a club that no one wants to belong to – the Gun Violence Survivors Club.
Fields’ brother Javad Marshall-Fields, and his fiancee Vivian Wolfe, were murdered by a gunman in 2005. On Monday, Fields and his mother, State Senator Rhonda Fields, were at a forum on gun violence in Dayton Street Opportunity Center, a youth center established in honor of the couple killed not far from where they were shot on Dayton Street.
There was only room in the center for two hours as a who’s who of politicians, community leaders and Aurora activists discussed and debated how to respond to the new wave of gun violence.
“We have to do better because my soul is heavy,” Maisha Fields said.
Accustomed to the subject, Aurora last week saw two shootings that rocked the city. On Monday, six teenagers were gunned down in Nome Park, directly across from Aurora Central High School, and on Friday, three students were gunned down in the parking lot at Hinkley High School.
All the victims survived. Three 16-year-old boys have been arrested in connection with the Hinkley shooting.
There was little consensus during the sometimes chaotic forum, but speakers shared a sense of frustration that gun violence among youth has plagued the city for so long, and the understanding that it takes more than one. simple intervention of the police to fight against the problem. .
Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn, who attended the meeting with the majority of the district school board members, said the discussion reminded him of the conversations he had in 1993 during what was nicknamed “the summer of violence”.
Youth violence is often symptomatic, Munn said. He cited three factors: young people do not see an opportunity for themselves, an “epidemic” of easy access to guns and young people do not learn to resolve conflicts constructively.
The district will be holding meetings throughout the week to discuss how to make sure students feel as safe as possible when they return to school after the Thanksgiving vacation, Munn said. He asked the community to come together to help young people feel supported.
“We cannot control our way out of this problem,” Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said. “The pipeline to the prison is real, and I don’t want to be part of it. We must find community solutions to be able to save our young people.
To prevent more young people from becoming perpetrators or victims of gun violence, Wilson said parents need to check their children’s backpacks and social media, and know who their children are spending time with.
She also said it was important for young people to have trusted adults to turn to so that if they are uncomfortable reporting something to the police, they have someone else to whom they can. bring problems without fear of retaliation.
Wilson said the department had taken “substantial” action in investigating the Nome Park shooting and hopes to have suspects in custody within 24 hours.
“But I can tell you these are our young people,” she said. “I don’t want to handcuff minors, and I need everyone’s help with that.”
State Senator Janet Bucker said the legislature needs to spend more money on safe spaces for children and mental health resources, which she said she plans to lobby in the next session legislative.
“We have families who are in crisis,” she said.
Elijah Rene, a community organizer for From the Heart Enterprises, said he was involved in high school gang life and left after watching friends die or go to jail. He said mental health services and mentoring programs are essential in helping young people today.
Some at the meeting suggested taking resources away from the police department, which Wilson expressed his frustration towards the end of the meeting.
“I have 39 homicides,” she said. “The crime in Aurora is out of hand. You need the police. I’ll make sure they police the right way, and I’ll hold them accountable if they don’t, but we have to change that narrative. “
Citywide aggravated assaults – this is how non-fatal shootings are often defined in statistics – increased by around 20% in the first 10 months of the year compared to the same period in 2020, according to police data. There were 2,243 reported aggravated assault victims in the city as of October 24, the most recent comprehensive data available. Murders are roughly stable in the city when comparing 2019 to 2020, according to recent statistics and police reports, with around 34 such crimes reported in the city so far this year.
Munn told the Sentinel that the district will have increased resources for safety and mental health in schools and meet with the DPA to develop a comprehensive plan for the afternoon. It also works to make sure parents are aware of the different channels for accessing resources and reporting safety concerns.
The district is still waiting for more information about the shots, and once it knows more, it will use that to determine its response, Munn said. It is currently unclear whether the shooting is gang related or whether the two shootings are related, for example.
“We don’t know what we don’t know,” he said.