The role of education and jobs in reducing Omaha’s violent crime was a key part of a debate Friday between the city’s candidates for Mayor.
Current District 5 City Council representative Jean Stothert is challenging incumbent Mayor Jim Suttle in the May 14th election. The debate was sponsored by the Omaha Press Club and League of Women Voters.
Suttle, a Democrat, and Stothert, a Republican, agree that jobs and education are critical to reducing crime in a city that had 40 homicides last year. But the candidates have different ideas for doing so. Stothert supports a three-part approach of prevention, intervention, and prosecution.
"You know, the number one factor that contributes to crime is poverty, the number one factor that contributes to poverty is a lack of education. We have a miserable graduation rate in some of our areas in Omaha in some of our school districts. If we want Omaha to really address the problem we have to keep our kids in school."
Stothert says more support is needed for after-school programs and partnerships. Suttle says those things are already happening in Omaha.
"We’re already doing after-school programs. We’re doing summer youth employment, and we know that it’s a direct correlation to reducing youth violence. We’re already doing technology such as the Shot Spotter and the new leased cruisers that let our officers have first-class equipment to use."
Suttle also touted the development of 41 new neighborhood associations, saying four are creating citizen patrols. He says the 70-acre Ames-Locust Industrial Park will bring jobs to north Omaha. Suttle says Stothert initially didn’t support the project. The city council voted unanimously in February to support the Industrial Park.