By Reggie Connell/Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice
Shots rang out yesterday near Apopka High School.
The Apopka Police Department responded to a call about a disturbance in the area of Lancer Oak Drive. When units arrived, they were told that a gun had been fired in the area during the disturbance. Detectives found shell casings in the area. There were no injuries reported. Apopka High School was locked-down for about two hours from 3-5 PM. The investigation is ongoing, and the APD is asking for anyone with information regarding this incident to contact CrimeLine at 407-423-TIPS or the Apopka Police Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those two incidents at both local high schools bring the issue home to Apopka, but they are but minor headlines in a month of spiking gun violence in schools across the country.
In case you missed it, another high school shooting took place earlier in the week in Benton, Kentucky. Two students were killed, and 18 more wounded after a 15-year-old shooter opened fire Tuesday morning at Marshall County High School.
Gun violence in American schools used to be rare, and shocking. Now it seems to happen far more frequently. This was the 11th gun-related incident at a school in the first 23 days of the new year, and the 50th of the academic year.
Since the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., all school shootings seem to have lost some of their capacity to shock, and the media seems to have followed suit and limited its coverage.
But the gun violence has hardly been limited to schools. Here are but a few statistics for the first 26 days of 2018 in the US:
Total number of incidents – 3,613
Number of deaths – 1,004
Number of injured – 1,798
Number of children under the age of 12 – 43
Mass shootings (involving four or more victims) – 17
Law enforcement officers shot or killed – 19
Unintentional or accidental shootings – 120
One might describe January as a national shooting spree, except that the gun violence in the past two years mirrors these figures. In 2016 there were over 58,000 gun-related incidents in the US. In 2017, there were over 61,000. In the past two years, America has averaged nearly one mass shooting per day (728).
Typically, I have stayed out of national politics and issues unless they directly relate to Apopka or Orange County. The Apopka Voice is a hyper-local news site after all. But while the epidemic of gun violence is nationwide, and a national issue, clearly Apopka is not immune.
What I won’t do is call on the President, the Congress, the Governor or the Legislature to do anything on this issue. It would be great if Washington and Tallahassee could work together on gun violence, but that is not the focus of my plea. And I won’t attack or defend the second amendment because it has nothing to do with this issue.
What I will do is call on the local community to take on this deadly issue at a grassroots level.
In the 1990s, a highly effective gun violence reduction strategy was developed in Boston by a group including law enforcement officers, researchers, and black clergy members. According to the National Institute of Justice, it resulted in a 63 percent reduction in the average monthly number of youth homicide victims in that city, an accomplishment that was called “the Boston Miracle.”
Another study done by the Campbell Collaboration, a nonprofit organization that evaluates the effects of this type of intervention, analyzed 10 cities that took on initiatives such as Boston. Stockton, Calif., saw a 42 percent reduction in its monthly count of gun homicides in the first year of the strategy’s implementation; similarly, Oakland, Calif., saw just under a 30 percent reduction. In 2017, the city is on track to have its second-lowest homicide rate in over 30 years.
While many have the misperception that entire cities and neighborhoods are filled with criminals, the reality is that those responsible for a majority of crimes represent a tiny percentage of the residents of any given city. In Apopka, it is estimated that 70% of the total crimes are committed by only 7% of the community.
In response to this fact, effective gun violence reduction strategies adopt a highly targeted, data-based approach in which the small number of individuals most at risk for being involved in gun violence are provided with individualized programs of support and pressure to discontinue their violence in the community. To this end, law enforcement officials, pastors, community leaders, social service providers and mentors who have themselves escaped violent lifestyles work in partnership with one another to help these individuals turn their lives around. This approach would harness the leadership and experience of the people who live in and understand these communities.
Absent a targeted investment strategy from the federal government, some local communities have taken on the challenge for themselves. And given the makeup of Apopka, I would not be surprised to see this community come together to take on this issue as they have done in so many instances.
It would be one thing if the solution to gun violence in our country were elusive, but that’s not the case. The effective solutions exist and are simply not being funded or supported. While Washington DC, Tallahassee, and unqualified individuals posting on Facebook continue to argue about gun control and gun rights, and gun-related issues that do not advance us to a solution, it would be refreshing to see Apopka take matters into its own hands and get results right now, because in cities across our country, gun murders every bit as tragic as the ones that took place in Benton, Ky. are happening every day.
Let’s prove that a solution most people believe has to come from federal or state government can be solved by a small, determined, and inspired community like Apopka.