Thursday evening may have marked the most tangible piece of South Bend’s new approach for curbing violence, but it’s hardly the beginning.
And to listen to police officials, there’s no end date either.
This is a long-term strategy built to last beyond the terms of the elected leaders involved in its inception.
To be sure,the city’s first call-in is a significant — and, for the general public, fascinating — element of a plan that’s been implemented in such cities as Boston and Cincinnati.
Thursday’s meeting with individuals involved in local gun violence included police and criminal justice officers, as well as social services and respected moral leaders in the community. Here, the choices were clearly outlined:
Put down your guns, accept help from the community — or else.
The message, as outlined last week by South Bend Group Violence Intervention spokesman Sgt. Dominic Zultanski, is: “We will no longer tolerate this (violence). We will stop you if you make us.” The meeting came after months of laying the groundwork.
In a visit to South Bend earlier this year, David Kennedy, the criminologist who literally wrote the book on the plan, described the hard work — typically the process takes six to eight months — that comes before the call-in:
Each sector — police, the justice system, social services and moral leaders — must be prepared to follow through on their message to at-risk groups.
At the time, Kennedy remarked that South Bend seemed well on its way to successfully launching the strategy. And that he had a strong sense of the necessary”buy-in”from the community.
Listening to officials like Zultanski, who really means it when he repeats the line, “We can’t arrest our way out of this,” it’s hard not to buy in, not to feel a sense of hope. Thursday’s call-in isn’t the beginning, nor is it the end, of South Bend’s efforts to reduce gun violence on the streets. But it’s an important point in getting the community to where it needs to be.
— South Bend Tribune