FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Fort Wayne has seen more homicides in the first two months of 2020 compared to last year, however Mayor Tom Henry said the issue is more complex than the numbers show.
Since January 1, 2020 Fort Wayne has seen six confirmed homicides. This includes:
- Marlon Lee Kimbrough, 40
- Diquan Meriweather, 19
- Than Kahn Khai, 49
- Warrell K. Booher, 48
- Eric Ray McDonnell Jr., 15
- Tonisha T. Richardson , 25
The Fort Wayne Homicide Division is also investigating two deaths from a triple shooting on Barnheart Avenue early Wednesday. If the Allen County Coroner rules those deaths homicides, that would put Fort Wayne at eight total since January 1, 2020. That is up from the three homicides seen at this point in the year in 2019. While the uptick in homicides concerns him, Mayor Tom Henry maintains that the issue is more complicated than numbers and that Fort Wayne is still a safe place to live.
“Crime overall is still down, it’s just that we’ve seen an increase, unfortunately, in shootings and in the homicide area,” said Henry. “Other crimes, in general, are still down significantly but as I mentioned earlier, we’ve had an increase in access to guns, and gangs using guns now as a way of addressing problems, and we still have a significant amount of drug activity and those three together puts us at a pretty vulnerable positions, when it comes to that particular set of crimes.”
Henry said that mayors from other Indiana cities like Evansville and South Bend have told him they are seeing a similar rise in violent crime. If not crimes of passion, he said many of the homicides are gun, gang or drug related. Although these are things that have been and continue to be an issue in Fort Wayne, Henry said the Fort Wayne police have been on top of the instances of violent crime this year.
“Many of the homicides, many of the shootings that have taken place in Fort Wayne since January first of this year, in almost every one of those cases we have made an arrest.”
Although he trusts that the Fort Wayne Police are on top of the situation, he said it is still concerning to him that the city is seeing more violent crimes this year.
“I worry every day whether or not we’re going to lose another life in our community and, God forbid, someone involved in the field of public safety,” said Henry. “That’s probably one of my biggest worries and my colleagues as well so anytime we get a phone call from the police department letting us know that there’s been a shooting or something similar to that, it weighs heavy on us.”
The city is looking at several solutions, the biggest being to put more feet on the ground. That means potentially making room for more police officers in the 2021 budget as well as expanding the Ten Point Coalition, which he says has had a significant impact in the Oxford area. If they choose to do that, they want to be mindful to expand rather than move the coalition.
“Historically, Ten Point Coalitions in other cities would move from one neighborhood to another,” said Henry “Sometimes the criminal element then goes back to the first one if you’re not there anymore so what we’re going to do is not abandon the Oxford neighborhood but rather add additional people to cover additional neighborhoods.”
The Ten Point Coalition told WANE 15 they do not have immediate plans to expand to other neighborhoods but that it is something they are always considering.
“We have been looking at the information, the data, and are definitely looking at ways that we can expand the Ten Point Coalition,” said Lewis A. Black, coordinator for the coalition. “When we have seen that in other areas this is happening it has caused us to look at where we are going to be in our next move.”
Black said there is still some crime in the Oxford area but they have been able to reduce it. The Fort Wayne Police Department reported that several crimes had seen large margins of decrease and the neighborhood went a full year with no homicides since the formation of the coalition. According to Black, their success comes from being visible in the community.
“What is going on in our city right now saddens me,” said Black. “We can’t control where this negative violence happens but we are definitely proponents of positive impact that we are making in the community. We are creating relationships with people, residents are talking, and the Ten Point motto is effective.”
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