Omaha ended 2012 with 40 homicides, and solutions to gang and gun violence were on the minds of Omaha’s Mayoral candidates during a debate Thursday night.
The debate was sponsored by 1290 KOIL and KETV. Former District 5 City Councilman Dan Welch says gun violence is part of a larger problem.
“The real problem is children raising children, fatherlessness, truancy, dropout rates, joblessness, and those are the issues that the next Mayor really has to get in and take on head first.”
Omaha businessman Dave Nabity says he supports bringing back a Police Auditor, and adding liaisons between the police department and community.
“I’m gonna hire ambassadors out of the communities where there’s high crime areas and bring them in to the police department and have them run what I call community service officers where they’ll be kind of an ombudsman between the police department and the communities.”
Mayor Jim Suttle, who’s seeking a second term, says his office has taken steps over the past four years to reduce crime.
“We put in place the illegal gun task force. We have taken off a record number, 950 guns last year that were illegal. We are adding a new specialist in south O, a gang specialist.”
Current District 5 City Councilwoman Jean Stothert says it’ll take a city-wide approach with more officers on the streets.
“We need to get officers out of their cars and in to the neighborhoods to build trust with the people in the neighborhood. We need to do a better job of addressing the small things, like neighborhood junk and rundown properties, and graffiti and broken glass, it creates an expectation of lawfulness.”
State Senator Brad Ashford, who’s also running for Mayor, says intervention programs are key to keeping young people from entering a life of violence.
“But you’ve got to instill hope by identifying the kids who are trouble as soon as possible, that’s what the juvenile justice that we’re doing now is, to redeploy funds where we over-incarcerate youth needlessly and put those funds back in to the community to work with community groups to create hope.”
The Mayoral candidates will also debate next Friday at the Omaha Press Club. Omaha’s primary election is April 2.