Pastor Steve Epting of Hope Community Church is encouraging faith leaders and other West Siders to work together on a spring outreach training strategy to address violence in Austin.
“We don’t want to do this in a vacuum. We want to […] encourage those of you to participate,” Epting said earlier this month at the 15th Police District’s monthly meeting of faith leaders.
Last year, Hope Community Church conducted six training sessions in violence prevention, held at different churches around Austin, in collaboration with the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, Epting said.
“We wanted a strategy. It’s one thing to talk about (violence prevention), it’s another thing to put something into play, and it’s a whole other thing to operate it,” he said.
In the next few weeks, Hope Community Church plans to hold informational sessions with members of other churches, community-led organizations, block club organizations and police officers willing to participate in the creation of a violence prevention strategy for the 15th District.
The goal is to involve representatives from 30 to 35 organizations who will participate in a four-series workshop and discuss how to help curb violence throughout the spring and summer, Epting said.
The sessions will focus on creating a strategy to address violence in Austin by engaging community leaders and residents directly connected to what is happening in the streets.
“We wanna hear from the people in the streets, folks that maybe know a little bit more than we do … to put together a simple strategy that all of us can take hold of,” Epting said.
Participants will receive a stipend. Community members interested in taking part can email email@example.com@gmail.com.
“I know we do mobilizations … we do corner prayer. But what other strategies … can we do together as a church community and as a faith community? What can we do together as one?” Epting said.
Dorin “Pastor Mac” McIntyre of Mount Olivet Missionary Baptist Church said the initiative fits with other programs supported by faith-based organizations that are designed to address violence in Austin.
“The whole idea is to figure out how we can collaboratively go together and walk hand in hand with this stuff,” McIntyre said. “All of us are not good at everything, but some of us are very good at certain things, and that’s what we need to capitalize [on] and identify.”
Also at this month’s meeting, 15th District interim Commander Capt. Sheamus Mannion announced that as of March 1, robberies have decreased by 11% and murders are down by 7% to 8%, but aggravated assaults have increased.
“A lot of them, we realize, are domestic related, which are for the most part inside houses, inside apartments, inside residences, so we don’t necessarily see them,” Mannion said.
The 15th District is analyzing if there are any patterns and identifying the best way to reach out to residents to prevent violence, he said.
Sixty-four guns were recovered and 50 arrests associated with the recovered guns were made from Jan. 1 through Feb. 28, Mannion said.
“As I always say with percentages, percentages don’t mean much if you are the one who is the victim. So we continue to look out for each other, and your outreach is invaluable to our all success,” he said.
Also at this month’s meeting, Jai Jones, project specialist for the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities for The Chicago Community Trust, said applications for the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities are being accepted until March 11.
The fund offers rapid-response grants designed to support activities by small, neighborhood-based organizations that will build community cohesion and promote safety and peace during the summer and fall. Grants range from $1,000 to $10,000.
To apply, visit: https://www.safeandpeacefulchi.com/