A civilian steering committee will soon be formed to help direct the city's response to street violence.
A new, scholarly report on violent crime trends in Omaha is close to completion. The city plans to hire an additional civilian gang specialist for southeast Omaha.
Mayor Jim Suttle, Omaha police officials and community representatives said Monday that those plans are the product of a mayoral task force assembled to develop new ways to fight violent crime.
Police have already announced plans to dissolve the city's roving "utility crew" of officers in order to assign those officers to supplement the Police Department's gang unit. Suttle said that effort was part of the task force's priorities.
"We can't afford to lose lives in this city to gang violence," Suttle said. "There are too many armed robberies in our community and too many people resorting to gun violence."
Officials said the civilian "steering committee," the members of which must still be revealed, would ideally keep watch on their neighborhoods and provide information to authorities on how to address criminal activity.
Willie Barney, head of the city's Empowerment Network, said the committee was a "major step" that for the first time would align all the city's neighborhood-based efforts against street violence.
"Most importantly, it's the community standing up and saying that we are ready to move forward, it is unacceptable for us to lose members of our community to gun violence and we will do everything that we possibly can to make sure that our children are safe and that we move forward in a comprehensive and collaborative way," Barney said.
The Empowerment Network is a neighborhood coalition that helps steer efforts to combat violence and increase employment in northeast Omaha.
A new city website also is being developed. It is intended as a clearinghouse for neighborhood group information on anti-violence activities.
Plus, officials said, a new University of Nebraska at Omaha analysis of long-term violent crime trends in the city will be released in the coming weeks.
That report will supplant one completed by two UNO professors last year — a report that concluded the city's anti-gang efforts relied on ineffective or inappropriate law enforcement tactics that can alienate the community.
The earlier report concluded that the city's broader anti-gang initiatives don't fully comply with federal models on best practices and that some local law enforcement efforts to prosecute violent offenders lack oversight.
City and community leaders decried the report's conclusions and methodology.
Suttle described that report as "editorial commentary."
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