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Neighbors, EPD Fight To Save Streets Inundated With Violence

Evansville's south side is fighting to revive the area after two months of increased violence. Monday neighbors who live near Tepe Park met to discuss how they can help curb the violent trend.
Evansville's south side is fighting to revive the area after two months of increased violence. Sunday Evansville Police Department said officers would increase south side patrols to help clean-up the area.

As the oft-heard cliché goes, there's no place like home. But it took Matt Stephens and his neighbors banding together to make his street feel safe enough to call "home".

"When I first moved to this street this street was terrible," says Stephens, who lives near Taylor and Garvin on the city's south side. "[It was] full of drugs, prostitution, wrecked cars, trash, dirt, needles and me and my neighbors cleaned it up."

For a while there was peace, neighbors could stroll the area without feeling in danger. But violence recently started seeping back into their lives.

"We thought we had control over our neighborhood again -- but here in the past couple months it's a gun fight every day and at night too. My family won't even come out of my house to go to the grocery store without me because they're afraid of getting shot. We're like prisoners in our own home and we shouldn't," says Stephens. "They're shooting at each other and in the meantime they're putting my family in danger, my neighbors in danger, a lot of my friends in danger."

EPD says there's been an upswing in the number of shootings and shots fired reports. They often go unsolved because witnesses are afraid to cooperate with law enforcement.

"Take ownership of your area and your community," an officer told neighbors Monday night at the Tepe Park Neighborhood Association meeting. "Don't just close your doors, close your blinds and not worry about something happening outside your house."

The officer told neighbors that investigators often run into dead ends because people refuse cooperate, ignore suspicious activity or are afraid to report crime to police or wait days after an incident happens to call law enforcement. "The longer it takes to report something, the harder it is for us to solve the crime," explained the officer.

The fear of retaliation is real for the many families living on the south side. Stephens acknowledges the risk of coming forward to talk publicly about his concerns, but says he can't watch his neighborhood deteriorate any longer. He's tired of watching his family, friends and neighbors live in fear. Tired of finding bullet holes in his home. Tired of watching his elderly neighbors vacate homes they've owned for decades. Tired of worrying neighborhood children will get caught in the crossfire.

"I've been stabbed on this street, I've been shot at on this street and I still come outside," said Stephens. "We stood up several years ago and made it known we're gonna call the police, we're gonna confront you at night. It's come back and it's all the way it was again. And we're not gonna let it happen. I'm not gonna let it happen."

It takes one person to stand up, but it takes an entire neighborhood to fight back. Police and concerned south siders are marching forward one step at a time -- hoping to dissipate the culture of fear and save the community from continued violence.
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