Toledo councilmen, from left, Mike Craig, Theresa Gabriel, Jack Ford, Larry Sykes, and Tyrone Riley, speak out against recent gun violence during a news conference at One Government Center in Toledo on Thursday.
Just before church let out Sunday at noon, gunfire sounded on Fernwood Avenue in Toledo’s central city.
Police found numerous shell casings in the 600 block of Fernwood where DoJuan Smith, 20, was shot at least once in an apparent drive-by.
“It was my wake-up call,” said Councilman Theresa Gabriel, who grew up on Fernwood and still has family living on the street, which has long been embattled by gang and gun violence.
Ms. Gabriel was joined by her council counterparts Jack Ford, Mike Craig, Larry Sykes, and Tyrone Riley on Thursday morning for a news conference to decry gang and gun violence in Toledo. The councilmen want to seek an understanding of and an end to black-on-black violence, they said.
“I ask black youth to consider what impact black-on-black crime is having in this community,” Mr. Ford said. “We are gaining a reputation that many areas of Toledo's inner neighborhoods are unsafe. Seniors are frightened. Neighbors shy away from each other. Your younger brothers and sisters, even babies, are at risk for injury or death from gunshots.”
Shootings in Toledo are down this year when compared with year-to-date statistics from 2012 and 2013. Sixty-six people have been shot this year; six of the victims died from their wounds. At this time last year, 74 people were shot, with nine fatalities. At the same time in 2012, there were 109 shootings with 14 fatalities. In 2011, an anomalous year, there were 210 shootings, a drastic increase from the 121 total shootings in 2010.
Even when considered on a broad scale, gun-related incidents, including everything from shots fired into the air to homicide, are down in Toledo over the last two years, according to Toledo Police Department statistics.
Although shootings are trending down in the city, each of the councilmen said the rate is still unacceptable.
“It's still way too many,” Mr. Ford said. “ … People are still fearful. … I think the violence we've seen is too much.”
Mr. Ford said many of the recent shootings and other violent crimes are the result of a “gang conflict” between northside gangs, who are generally considered to be Bloods, and southside gangs, who are often affiliated with Crips and Folks.
The councilmen touted the usual solutions: education, jobs, and investment in the community. Tangible plans were not offered.
More discussions, each councilman agreed, are needed on black-on-black crime. Of shooting victims in Toledo this year, at least 58 are black and four are white. Police reports were not available on another four shootings, so the victim's race was not known.
Charles Veley, 40, finished a four-week bicycle ride to Los Angeles on Thursday morning. He pedaled thousands of miles, starting at Central and Detroit avenues, to promote an end to gun violence. During his cross-country ride, with stops in cities big and small, he asked leaders and police in other communities how they deal with gun violence. He said he asked gang members to find a greater purpose than the streets.
“I have run into real gang members, and it all boiled down to everybody needs somebody to talk to,” Mr. Veley said. He said that youth in gangs need role models — people who have come from their same neighborhoods and found success. Mr. Veley will return to Toledo on Monday.
The plea to end violence comes weeks before the annual 2 Mile March & Rally 2 Stop Gang Violence, hosted by former X Blocc gang members who, through incarceration or God, found a way out of the violent lifestyle. The July 27 rally starts at 3:30 p.m. with the march beginning at 4 p.m. at Central and Detroit avenues and ending at Detroit and Indiana avenues.