The World-Herald asked the five major mayoral candidates for their views on several issues facing the city. Excerpts from their responses will be provided this week.
Today: What is Omaha's next move to help cut crime?
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As chair of the judiciary committee for seven years, I have focused on reducing violence by promoting strategies for early intervention and prevention of violent crime.
The truancy initiative passed by the Legislature in 2010 has helped identify troubled youth who need help. We also realize that gun and gun-related crime is very serious and we have increased penalties for gun-related crime.
As mayor, I will work with the Legislature, law enforcement and the community to develop strategies to address street violence. I will work with law enforcement and the community to stop retaliatory gang violence. I will work on reforms to ensure we have access to complete mental health records, which would help us perform better background checks for the purchase of firearms. I will support efforts to encourage the safe storage of weapons. I will work with law enforcement and the county attorney on prosecution of gang leaders who entice others to join gangs. I will work with the police chief and the director of the Department of Corrections to ensure that prison furloughs are safely managed.
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The majority of the crime in Omaha is committed by people involved in gangs and drugs.
We know who they are and where they live so we must make it clear to them they have two options: Either stop their lives of crime in which case we will help them get an education, learn a trade and get a job. Or, they can continue with their gang activities. In that case, we will do all we can to arrest, convict and incarcerate them for as long as possible.
We must develop trust between the police and residents in high crime areas, and it is very important we work with the legislature to do away with the “Good Time” early release program.
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We must get to the root of crime to start addressing the issue head on.
Keeping kids in school and off the streets will help keep them away from a life of crime.
We must develop a true community policing approach that takes cop out of their cars, and gets them into the community, where they can build relationships and develop trust. When a crime is prosecuted, we must make sure the sentence is stiff enough to deter any further criminal activity.
Finally, we must make sure we have enough active police officers to address crime across the city.
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We are making great progress in targeting gang and gun violence in our city, and we cannot afford to step backwards at this time.
We recently increased the gang unit street presence from 14 to 21 officers, providing gang suppression in both north and south Omaha, seven days a week. We must also reduce access to illegal guns.
In 2012, nearly 950 illegal guns were removed from Omaha streets. Additional efforts include truancy intervention, after-school programs and summer youth jobs as preventive measures and stepped-up enforcement to curtail criminal activity, address nuisance tenants and problem landlords, and support job training.
We need to turn around state programs that put violent offenders back on our streets on furloughs and “good time” release before they have served half their sentence. And we need common sense gun measures that target dangerous weapons in the hands of dangerous people.
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First is a commitment to change a culture of poverty, fatherlessness and crime.
Many good organizations are working towards this end, and we must build on their work with community partnerships. But we must have a strategy to curb violent crime now, including getting guns off of Omaha's streets, and giving law enforcement the tools they need to make arrests and get convictions that will also take gang members and their associates off the streets.
Crime rates in Omaha are unacceptable and public safety is a top priority for me.