FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - 11 people have been shot and killed in Fort Wayne so far in 2013. Police have shot and killed three people on top of that.
Fort Wayne police say much of the time, it's been young people involved in gang activity left dead or suspect in the homicides. FWPD Chief Rusty York wants to curb the gang violence by moving more resource officers in middle schools instead of high schools.
15 Finds Out sat down with Fort Wayne Police Chief Rusty York looking to dig deeper into what his department is doing to fight the abnormally high homicide numbers. When asked what his department would get if it had more money, he had a surprising answer: School resource officers.
"Our school resource officers are involved with youth every single day," York said.
So 15 Finds Out looked at all four public school corporations in Allen County. Fort Wayne police have six officers in Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS). The department has one in each high school. Another roams between elementary and middle schools.
FWCS has more resource officers than the three other districts combined. East Allen (EACS), Northwest Allen (NACS), and Southwest Allen Community Schools (SACS) each have one Allen County deputy. EACS also uses a New Haven officer.
For the most part, each district had great things to say about the officers:
- "Our district officer and our SRO have really cut down on our 9-1-1 emergency calls because they're available in our schools and can handle the situation," said Tamyra Kelly, EACS public relations.
- "She [the resource officer] builds a lot of really positive relationships which pay off when there is a concern going on at the school," said Anita Gross, SACS social worker.
- "We're working together on finding solutions to issues that may be in our community and those community issues may come into our schools," said Chris Himsel, NACS superintendent.
- 15 Finds Out tried more than once to speak with FWCS on the topic. Leaders there are the only ones who didn't want to comment on the program. Still Chief York told 15 Finds Out his department is reworking strategy to help mediate violence and gang problems in the school district.
"We're actually evaluating how we have those officers deployed with the Fort Wayne Community School system and we're considering and probably will focus those officers more to middle schools next year instead of the high schools," York said. "By the time young people get into high schools, they're less influenced we feel by what the school resource officers can provide."
The violence may be happening mostly on the south and southeast sides of town, but the ripple effect is being felt by students across the county.
- "We do have students that are victims of some of the recent homicides and they are family members of some of those [victims]," Kelly with EACS said.
- "Students in today's culture communicate through social media and through meeting each other in the community," Gross with SACS said. "So they know what's going on."
- "We're shaping all of our youth to be able to handle life's challenges in a way that contributes to the betterment of our community instead of acting out and bottling it up and exploding sometime in the near future," Himsel with NACS said.
Fort Wayne City Council is working to solve an 11 million dollar budget deficit. Despite the praise for school resource officers, City Councilman and Fort Wayne Deputy Police Chief Marty Bender said if the police department's numbers are cut, school resource officers might be one of the first things to go.
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