You don’t have to be a police officer or a youth care worker to help rid the community of violent crime, a panel of law enforcement and youth experts told members of the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council on Thursday.
The concept of community policing works when many people get involved, panelists said. Members were Francisco “Paco” Fuentes, director of the South Omaha Boys & Girls Club; Sgt. Teresa Negron, who works in the homicide division of the Omaha Police Department; and Thomas Warren, president and CEO of the Urban League of Nebraska and a former Omaha police chief.
The forum, focusing on how to prevent violence in the city, was the first in a series the council will sponsor for members and others in the community. Recent United Way strategic planning sessions to determine the area’s most pressing problems will inspire topics.
Community support for youth programs and nonprofit agencies that offer anti-gang initiatives, education programs or mentoring; or that have a major focus on reducing truancy and parental involvement in schools go a long way toward addressing the underlying causes of crime, the panelists said.
Poverty, housing inequity, the breakdown of the family, unemployment and underemployment are among those causes, they agreed.
They also said, however, that Omaha’s violent crime rate is relatively low compared with other cities its size.
It’s important to remember that violence in Omaha ebbs and flows, Negron said. It may spike when groups get into feuds, for instance, and a series of shootings result, but tempers cool and it stops. Or there may be several robberies and a suspect is caught, then they stop.