By Wendy Burton
Phoenix Staff Writer
Teaching young people to stay calm and carry on instead of getting angry and hurting someone is the goal of community volunteers who want to see crime reduced, said the Rev. Marlon Coleman.
And Action in Muskogee’s Safe and Secure Initiative is poised to make a tremendous impact in that area with it’s upcoming neighborhood outreach, Coleman said.
The reason it’s possible to get the program started now is because of the passionate volunteers standing by who started a promising neighborhood outreach but needed a framework in place to keep it going, he said.
AIM is going to provide that framework, and not only through the Safe and Secure committee, he said.
“I think that everything that AIM is doing will not only reduce the crime rate but also give this city the spurt of growth it needs,” Coleman said.
A neighborhood outreach movement began late last summer in response to the shooting death of Skyler Brewer, 26, on a sidewalk in front of a home on Broadway.
It was the first homicide of 2012, but the last straw for many community members who were appalled by the number of homicides Muskogee had suffered over the past several years, including the murders of Jerrod Reed, 22, killed April 10, 2010; Anton Nelson, 18, killed Dec. 9, 2011; Ryan Satterfield, 17, killed Nov. 23, 2011; and Roshun English, 35, who was shot and killed Nov. 11, 2011 in his home. On Dec. 21, 2011, Ja’Cion Logan, 2, was shot and killed in his home.
Area pastors gathered together and went to the local hospital the night of Skyler Brewer’s death on Sept. 6, 2012.
They found crowds of angry young men there.
“I saw there was blood in the eyes of the young ones,” said Pastor Michael Webber in a community meeting a few days after the shooting. “We had to get them outside and talk to them, work together to keep the peace. They were so emotional.”
So, a rally was held on the courthouse steps where more than 100 community members signed up to become volunteers.
And those volunteers did get out in the neighborhoods and make a difference, Coleman said.
The group did an event about a year ago in an area that was seeing a high number of calls for police, he said.
“And we got off to a great start. We fed them dinner, and we talked to them about anger management,” Coleman said. “There were people who went to find their friends and bring them back to hear what we were saying that day.”
The police department soon reported much fewer disturbance calls, Coleman said.
“And that held for nearly 10 months before things began to escalate there again,” he said. “So now I regret we only did one event there and gloried in its success.”
Coleman said the group learned from that experience that while their intentions were good and their methods sound, “we need 10 times the volunteers and 10 times the follow up to really be successful.”
Visits will soon begin again to neighborhoods in need, Coleman said. The events will focus on the needs of each specific area, determined largely by police department call records.
“We’re going to go into those neighborhoods and help the residents who live there do their own policing,” he said. “We’re talking about the places where kids are vandalizing, cars are getting broken into, meth is being cooked and used. We’re talking about where there are kids with guns and fights break out frequently. We’re going to go there.”
Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or firstname.lastname@example.org.