A Zoom meeting held earlier this month by faith leaders and 15th District officers. | AustinTalks

Halloween is typically a time when the West Side sees an uptick in robberies, shootings and crime. But this past Halloween different — just one homicide was reported in Austin on Oct. 31, 15th District Police Commander Andre Parham said earlier this month at a monthly meeting of faith leaders.

Parham credited that low number to the work of groups within the community and police working together by hosting a variety of fall/Halloween events throughout the holiday weekend.

“Don’t think that it’s just the police. It’s a collaboration between the police, faith communities, block clubs, everyone,” Parham said.

Crimes such as homicides are down but carjackings have gone up, a trend that is being seen city-wide.

“More than half of the people arrested for carjacking in Chicago last year were juveniles,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. A database created by the Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office showed the majority of carjackings in the city and suburbs have occurred on the West Side.

During the virtual meeting, different leaders expressed the importance of building consistent relationships with youth in the community and providing engaging opportunities to deter violence and crime.

“Our faith base is being challenged to be more engaged in the community. We have to go deeper than events and seasonal activities,” said Pastor Steve Epting of Hope Community Church. “We have to create relationships in our community if we want to see the violence we are seeing reduced.”

“Right now, I think that social media and the way that they glorify some of these carjackings and these incidences … it needs to be talked about, and it needs to be addressed to give them other ideas. Like what opportunities are we giving them?” said youth engagement Officer William Martinez.

Martinez and others shared some of the current and upcoming opportunities for youth.

Chicago West Side Sports, a collaboration between police and community volunteers, is starting sign-ups. GRIP Outreach for Youth’s SLAM program, which is partnering with By the Hand, has seen the number of participants grow from about 30 to nearly 100.

“We have a lot of needs, and we can’t meet them all at one time,” Epting said. “I think that if we stay together and focus and trust and keep our focus in the right place, there will be a definite change in the community. Not just violence reduction, but people loving each other like they should.”

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