A new initiative unveiled Wednesday by Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke aims to combat rising crime by cultivating conversation. The initiative called the Mayor's Community Conversations will be incorporated into upcoming Traveling City Hall meetings. The objective is to allow the community to foster dialogue and exchange ideas.
Evansville Police have been dispatched to 460 shots fired runs through July, according to Sgt. Jason Cullum. While the majority of the runs have occurred in the Center City, each sector of the community faces its own set of challenges, Winnecke said.
Conversation creates dialogue and dialogue dictates the narrative. Standing outside her business 'Chik'n Stix' at the intersection of Washington and Kentucky, Sherry Walker hopes the community can write it's own narrative instead of someone else writing it for them.
"Some of those young guys that may be out there shooting and doing things, when they come in and eat, I talk to them," Walker said.
This Center City business owner and part-time real estate broker speaks freely and listens intently.
"You don't take someone's life because you feel like it," Walker said. "There has been a lot of shootings in the community. I'll be honest, I'm [mad] about it as well."
Thanks to a new initiative, the views of one person could become a conversation among many, Mayor Winnecke said.
"It's important that we have more than just the police department in these discussions," Winnecke said. "We are reaching out as we speak to people all over the community, all walks of life. That's why it's important to have someone [from each ward] talking about why it's important to get involved. It's important to have someone [from each ward] to talk about why [the community] should care."
In addition to the numerous programs the Evansville Police Department is already engaged in like Coffee with a Cop and Citizen's Academy, Chief Billy Bolin sees the mayor's new initiative as yet another avenue to foster good relationships.
"We've said several times it's a team. This is a partnership," Chief Bolin said. "We want a community that trusts each other. It works both ways from the community trusting the police and the police trusting the community. We have a great community here but we can always improve."
The new community conversations forum will piggy-back off of Traveling City Hall meetings. The forums will be tailored to each one of the city's six wards. Furthermore, the forums will be led by someone from that ward, Winnecke said.
If there are festering concerns or issues, the forums provide a venue in which they can be addressed, Chief Bolin said.
The first meeting will be held on September 15th at the Boys & Girls Club on Bellemeade Ave. The meeting will start at 5:30.