Palmetto unites against crime at first community meeting

At first community meeting, city officials meet with residents concerned about recent shootings

jtate@bradenton.comOctober 11, 2013 

PALMETTO -- In the wake of recent shootings in the community, Palmetto city officials felt the need to assure residents crime will not prevail.

Around 30 people gathered Thursday in the Eddie Shannon Fieldhouse of the Palmetto Youth Center, 501 17th St. W.

Commissioner Charles Smith, whose district houses the center, said he received many calls after the Sept. 21 shooting at the Palmetto youth center from residents who wanted a meeting.

"We wanted to call this meeting to deal with crime issues and the shootings in the past few weeks," said Smith.

Commissioners Tamara Cornwell, Tambra Varnadore and Jonathan Davis attended to show their support, but did not address the crowd.

Smith said he will personally show up at the trials of the shooters and testify on behalf of the community. He said the shootings and killings must stop.

"Don't be afraid to come to the youth center," said Smith. "If you fire a gun in this community, then you are going away for a long time."

Police Chief Rick Wells also said shootings will not be tolerated.

"What happened two weeks ago here has to stop," said Wells. "We are dealing with young black men killing other young black men."

He said working with area pastors helped involve the community in stopping the violence, which can't be solved solely through arrests.

Pastor of Yahueh's Abundance and Community advocate Herman Cadena plans to hold an Oct. 19 event at the youth center to allow residents to show they stand in support of peace and unity. He said it's time to cross racial and ethnic boundaries to help reduce crime.

"I want to bring in the Hispanic community to show support," said Cadena. "If these things take place in the Hispanic community, we would like to see the black community help us because we're the two groups that really have a lot of the issues. If we can come together before things happen, then that's what we're all about."

City Clerk Jim Freeman, Community Redevelopment Agency Director Jeff Burton, CRA staff member Antoinette Kilgore, Public Works Director Alan Tusing and Deputy Chief Scott Tyler attended the meeting to update residents on the Martin Luther King Park, how to apply for city programs and on new water meters being installed citywide.

But crime was undeniably the focus of the meeting.

Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said: "This really has to stop."

Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.

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