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Omaha sees rise in shootings, police say

Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 4:34 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - New numbers from the Omaha Police Department show violent crime is increasing as the summer wears on. July has been the worst month all year for shootings and homicides.

Police said the last time they saw this many shootings was back in 2015. So far in 2020, there have been 23 homicides, which was the total for 2019.

In July, there were 24 non-fatal shootings with 33 victims. There were six homicides in July this year while there were zero in 2019.

The summer of 2019 had the lowest shooting incidents on record the city has seen in decades, according to the police department.

Leaders with the police department said there’s a reason for the number of fatal and non-fatal shootings trending upward.

“There’s the pandemic, the unrest, things of that nature. There’s unemployment, financial concerns. There’s a lot of things in play here, so I think that’s the reason we’ve seen the spike, along with some uptick in gang activity,” said OPD Deputy Chief Ken Kanger.

Kanger added they have moved some personnel to the gang unit in an effort to curb the violence.

”We’ve moved some detectives in the criminal investigation bureau temporarily to help with homicide numbers and investigations also to help with the non fatal shootings investigations. it’s important that we do that when we see the volume go up,” says Kanger

Since COVID-19 hit the community back in March, gang specialists have had to come off the streets in an effort to reduce the spread.

They are now back out, trying to connect with those most at risk for gang and gun violence.

”Our gang specialists are back out talking to kids even if it’s in a front yard and socially distanced but we have to make sure that we have those things in place because you have to address violent crime through an intervention and a prevention strategy as well as a strong enforcement strategy,” says Kanger.

Kanger says he believes a lack of school and after school programs available to the youth has contributed to the numbers we are now seeing.

Leaders with YouTurn work closely with the community to curb gun violence. They say they noticed the same thing when schools closed.

”When school suddenly had to close their doors the organizations were not prepared for the students to be out and so that safety net of different organizations to help them mediate some of the things going on, was gone,” says YouTurn Executive Director, Teresa Negron.

While numbers are up for fatal and non-fatal shootings, Kanger is confident the numbers will trend downwards because the community is stepping up to help solve and prevent violent crime.

”When we work together as a team and you’re talking community policing working at its strongest, you see the direct results like we’ve seen over the last several years and we’re going to get to that again,” says Kanger.

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