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South Bend Police chief addresses gun violence

August 25, 2015

SOUTH BEND — Police Chief Ron Teachman addressed the Common Council on the issue of gun violence Monday in light of a recent uptick in homicides in the city.

Ten homicides were committed in the city between January and mid-June, compared with 17 all of last year, despite efforts to address gang-related gun violence via a Group Violence Initiative.

“We’ve seen a decrease in gang-related gun violence,” council member Karen White, D-at large, said. “However, we have experienced a number of homicides in recent months … How do we address that?”

“You are correct that we are seeing a nominal increase in homicides from this time last year,” Teachman said. “But when you look at the data, we are encouraged that the Group Violence Initiative is having an impact.”

He noted that homicides are “not a very accurate indicator of violence in a given city,” but rather “a function of marksmanship and emergency services.”

“It’s a matter of where the bullet strikes and how quickly the victim is given emergency medical care,” he said.

At the same time, the county Metro Homicide Unit solves homicides at a rate “way above the national average,” he said.

“However, solving homicides is not satisfying,” he said. “Preventing a homicide is.”

To that end, he said, action needs to be taken to restrict the flow of illegal guns into the community and to make it more difficult for violent offenders to bond out of jail.

“What’s discouraging, quite honestly, to all of us in law enforcement … is a bond schedule that allows people to buy their way out of jail after committing a violent offense or being apprehended with a gun illegally,” he said.

The community also has a role to play, he said.

“Every murder, every non-fatal shooting has a narrative that preceded it where the shooter indicated his intention to shoot … and no one calls” police, he said.

Council member Henry Davis Jr., for his part, suggested residents have become “numb” to the violence.

“That’s right, they’re desensitized, and they need to be sensitized,” Teachman said.

To that end, he said, police make an effort to reach out to residents when violence occurs, to establish relationships and build trust.

As a result, he said, residents have become more confident that if they call, police will respond.

That is reflected in ShotSpotter data, he said, which shows that residents report gunfire at a rate of about 33 percent now, compared with about 11 percent last June.

“Still anemic, but it’s showing progress,” Teachman said.

South Bend Tribune