Owensboro Police Department officials have reactivated the department's "flex team" to deal with incidents of violence on the city's west side.

Police Chief Art Ealum said the department's leadership team decided to reinstate the flex team Monday, the day after a shooting killed a man at his home in the 1500 block of West Ninth Street. That incident is still under investigation, OPD Public Information Officer Andrew Boggess said.

Ealum said the flex team will work to disrupt criminal activity.

"If nothing else, they will be able to disrupt the activities of individuals who have become comfortable" engaging in criminal activity, he said.

The flex team, a special detachment of officers working on the west side in addition to the regular patrol, worked for two months last year in response to numerous reports of gunshots. In that time, the team served 103 arrest warrants, issued 139 drug charges and 12 weapons charges, confiscated six firearms and responded to 486 calls for service.

The department had already started ramping up patrols in the area around Dugan Best Park before Sunday's shooting and before the June 1 double homicide in Whitesville, Ealum said.

"A day or two before the shooting in the county, we experienced a shots fired call in the Dugan Best area," Ealum said.

"We've still been down there every night, to give the neighbors a break," Ealum said. "People are tired of hearing gunshots, and I don't blame them." It's troubling "when gunfire becomes the norm and not the exception," he said.

But the community needs to help curb the behavior of young adults and juveniles participating in criminal activity, he said. "Gun violence is not something we are going to be able to enforce our way out of."

On Monday, a group of officials, including some city commissioners, OPD command staff members, patrol officers and a member of the city school board attended a meeting to discuss youth crime and violence at Dugan Best.

Timothy Collier, a local businessman who organized the meeting, said that was just the beginning of an effort to find solutions to crime and violence. A second meeting is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Dugan Best Park shelter.

"We weren't just concentrating on the west side," Collier said. Violence is "a citywide problem.

"We are just trying to make a conscious effort to bring violence to a halt and get these guns out of juveniles' hands," Collier said.

The hope is to give kids other outlets to keep them off the streets, such as jobs or organized sports, he said.

One idea discussed Monday was to change the city's curfew. "Right now, our curfew for juveniles is one o'clock in the morning," Collier said.

Possibilities the group would like to discuss include creating a summer job program for juveniles and sports leagues. Another idea would be providing instruction on proper behavior for juveniles and parents, Collier said.

"You never used to hear about kids killing kids," Collier said. "We are just trying to win these streets back, because right now, the kids have taken over."

City Commissioner Larry Conder, who attended the meeting, said the group is planning to make a presentation to the commission as city government is also interested in curbing crime and violence. He said the group wants to find what "we (can) do as a community coming together over a long period of time, to change this."

"There is a movement out there to do something," Conder said. "What is it, I don't know yet."

Ealum said people the community will have to be involved in curbing violence.

"Locking people up is not going to solve it," Ealum said. "... There's no guarantee they are going to get significant (jail) time.

"We are definitely going to partner with members of the community, the clergy ... business, whoever we can to bring this to a halt."

To Meet

A communitywide meeting to discuss solutions to crime and violence will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at the shelter at Dugan Best Park, 1003 Omega St.

 

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