In less than a week's time there have been two shootings in Omaha, leaving two young men dead. The mayor and new police chief spoke Thursday about how they are going to curb gun violence.
The city will be using recommendations from the Illegal Gun Task Force. The recommendations include expanding the gun amnesty program, changing sentencing for misdemeanor gun offenses and boosting penalties for repeat offenders. One proven strategy is greater community involvement.
Two families are reeling over the deaths of two men. On Monday, 24-year-old Delayno Wright was shot and killed at a nightclub near 175th and Center. On Wednesday, 21-year-old Brandon Thomas was shot at 41st and Maple. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
“Any homicide is still one too many, any shooting is still one too many, how do we move forward as a community?” said Willie Barney with the Omaha Empowerment Network. “We believe we have a lot of those answers that we need to move forward.”
Mayor Jim Suttle released a copy of his Illegal Gun Task Force report on Thursday. “If we look at specifically targeted neighborhoods we have worked in we have seen a 50 percent reduction in gun violence,” said Barney.
Despite the recent shootings, Barney said the gun task force's research backs up what he has seen in the community. “Over the last five years we have learned a lot and that's by working directly with young people, young adults, developing programs and listening to them and what's going on in the street."
He said further shootings, like the two this week, can be prevented by simply getting involved with community programs. “We've seen them go to work every single day during the summer making $7 or $12 an hour and when that happens, the court systems, the police department report that the activity has literally changed."
As city officials remind us, change can only be made with a 360-degree approach. “When there are summer jobs programs going on and the faith community is involved and the police department is engaged, we know that we can make a difference,” added Barney.
Next week, the Omaha Empowerment Network will be making a formal challenge to the community, telling everyone what specifically people can do to help their community move forward.