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Councilmember Juanita Johnson addresses violence in North Omaha, plan to tackle it

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 5:48 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 12, 2021 at 8:53 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s been exactly three months since Omaha voters elected three new council members and Six News is checking in to see how their transition has been and what they’ve been working while in office.

2nd District Council member Juanita Johnson ran on a platform that included three major topics:

1. Real Talk, Real Change.

2. Equality and Inclusion

3. Jobs

She said she’s been working on all of them.

However, all three of her active months on council have included an uptick in shooting violence throughout North Omaha.

Since the first week of June, seven people have died in North O. and another 16 have been struck by at least one bullet.

Johnson said while the violence is devastating, it also deserves context.

“When we look at the statistics from last year versus this year, we would agree that those numbers have not gone out of proportion. They’re about the same levels,” she explained, adding that while she wants to assure her constituents that the crimes are a pressing issue, she doesn’t want to alarm people by omitting pertinent information.

Johnson believes the city suffers from a similar issue tormenting other parts of the country; widespread violence as a result of being locked up for the better part of a year and a half long pandemic.

“We had very little to do...our hormones raging, and our energy exploding.,” she said, while noting that those reasons still don’t excuse the destructive behavior.

To change the negative patterns, Johnson said she’s going directly to the people impacted; the greater community to “provide a platform where we can talk about the real issues facing North Omaha and then come up with solution to face them.”

Johnson said she’s started hosting weekly meetings at Essential Gather Place, where neighbors brainstorm ways to curb violence. She noted a direct result of those ideas is already coming to fruition.

For example, a new program at the Bryant Center, that will offer weekly martial arts classes for people of all ages.

“If our mind is focused on something different, then most likely we won’t have time to focus on things that are negative.” said Johnson.

She added her broader plan to tackle violence in her district and other community priorities, is to work with the other council members on collaborative initiatives.

Recently Johnson took fellow newly, elected council member Don Rowe on tour of North Omaha to help him become better familiar with the areas the district is both thriving and lacking.

Right now, it needs more crime prevention.

Of those seven North Omaha homicide victims since June, six of them were young, Black, teens and many of the accused are young and Black too.

Johnson said access to opportunities is a huge barrier for the success of many youth across the city and that even when providing jobs, they have to be high paying employment opportunities that provide a living wage.

“When we deal with jobs, we’re dealing with poverty. Things like gun violence, people robbing each other. All kind of crime tend to become heightened when we have no funds to feed our families,” Johnson added.

Johnson can be reached by email at Email: Juanita.Johnson@cityofomaha.org or by phone at 402-444-5524.

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