Community Members Rally After Recent Upsurge in Crime
By Courtney Harris
On June 6, Bethel A.M.E. Church hosted a community conference fresh off the heels of several volatile weeks in Tallahassee.
The death of 22-year-old D’Juante Tucker on May 30 was one of three shootings in the city over the course of two hours.
With Tucker’s family in attendance, the issues of black-on-black crime and violence among youths took center stage.
Many members of the community seem unsure as to why the shootings are occurring, but are well aware of the impact. More than just at the neighborhood level, the issue of violence among black youths is a national discussion.
A panel of community leaders including Tallahassee police officers, city commissioners and attorneys gave advice on how to begin to rectify the issues.
The entire panel emphasized the importance of positive role models whether they be parents, teachers or community leaders, to be more involved with the children in the community because they believe law enforcement cannot solve these issues alone.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney at the Tallahassee firm Parks & Crump, LLC, was very vocal in his opinion of what the community needs to do to see a positive change. Crump has gained national attention for his representation of the family of Trayvon Martin, a central Florida teen who was killed by George Zimmerman in a case that made national headlines.
“We argue that black lives matter to others but if we don’t believe black lives matter how can we complain when no one hears our cries,” Crump said. “We have to teach our children that their lives are valuable.”
Major Lonnie Scott of the Tallahassee Police Department emphasized that a solution will take time to find.
“What’s happening is beyond description,” Scott said, “and I don’t have the answer or a magic prescription because we didn’t get here over night.”
With the upsurge in crime across Tallahassee the city could see a decline in economic development, but some community members feel the city is the catalyst for the violence. Some feel the violence is simply a reflection of the poverty within the community that is caused by the city.
“It’s ridiculous to ask the community to fix itself,” Tallahassee resident Joseph L Webster said.
Webster is a member of the community and believes the crime is a result of poor governmental support in the impoverished communities.
“This issue is a reflection of the misdistribution of resources,” Webster said. “Jobs and opportunities are necessary. Our kids need to be presented with the opportunity to work and be productive.”
The panel encouraged everyone to accept responsibility for each other.
“I don’t want any of you to leave here tonight without making a declaration to bond and unite for this cause,” said Rev. Julius McAllister, Bethel AME pastor.
Despite a difference in opinions of the reason for the violence, all in attendance hoped the community would walk away with a better understanding of the severity of the issues – and the belief that much more can be done.
“When we lose children we lose the future of our community,” Leon County Schools superintendent Jackie Pons said. “We all can, and should, do more.”