One concerned resident and parent who’s decided “enough is enough” with the gun violence in Owensboro has begun holding meetings at Dugan Best Park to address the violent activity taking place across the community. Over 100 people showed up to Tim Collier’s second meeting on Thursday evening and Collier said he hopes the entire community can work together to bring a solution to the table.
The meeting began and ended with prayer and — per the request from a voice in the crowd — was concluded with a moving testament of unity that had everyone, race and social status unquestioned, join hands as the group prayed for answers, guidance and safety.
Collier said that while the first meeting he held brought up concerns from the community, he’s now focused on creating a team of people who are serious about combating gun violence among Owensboro youth with reasonable and proactive solutions.
“I brought everyone together today just so we can get some ideas, some thoughts, on how to solve the problems in our community,” Collier said. “I also reached out to some organizations to bring answers to some of your all’s questions, like, ‘What do we have for the women? What do we have for the community, what do we have for the children? What can we do to help?’”
Collier said there are a lot of local programs that those in the community don’t know about, such as the YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club and a multitude of churches that can provide answers for concerned parents and citizens.
“I’m just a part of this puzzle. I just want to see it done in a peaceful way,” Collier said. “Our common goal is to win these streets back. Without each other, we can’t do it. We have to bring all these resources together to come up with a solution. Yes, we know there’s a problem with violence. Yes, we know there’s a drug problem. Yes, we know there’s a gun problem. But what are we going to do with the community to help our police officers fix it? It’s not their problem that it’s a problem.”
Collier said the problem primarily fixated on those in the community who’ve let their kids down by not correcting them. In order to bring change, he said, it was on the backs of the residents to come together and fight for change.
Steve Winkler, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club, said his organization’s goal was to have a safe and positive place for the kids of Owensboro.
“I think you’ve got to get a core group of people to outline the concerns that people have,” Winkler said. “You’ve got to have a plan of action. You’re going to have to form a budget and list your ideas. And then approach the City and foundations — and that’s going to continue to grow. There will be a parent committee, a support group committee, and once those committees start working together I think you start, slowly, solving some of the issues because more people and organizations get involved. That’s something that’s worked at the Boys & Girls Club, and I think it’ll work in your neighborhoods as well.”
The Northwest Neighborhood Alliance, which had formerly been disbanded, has now regrouped and will begin holding meetings again — the first one being held June 25 at the H.L. Neblett Community Center at 6 p.m.
Resident Larry Goodwell said a group will be gathering at Zion Baptist Church on Thursday, June 20 at 6 p.m.
“We’re intending to have a peaceful demonstration and have posters made that say, ‘No more weapons, no more death,’” Goodwell said. “It’ll be a silent organization coming together, standing together at the park, holding these posters. We won’t be instigating anything with the kids. It’s just to let everyone know the community is coming together because we’re tired.”
Goodwell said one of the biggest problems in creating change is that people talk about being united and coming together, but rarely does it happen in actuality.
“We have to work together to see an end come to this. I don’t care what color you are, what your last name is,” Goodwell said. “There’s so much anger in this right now that we have to do this in a peaceful way.”
Collier said the children of Owensboro needed to learn to be better and more respectful citizens and that the best way to encourage their growing up to be non-violent and non-criminal was to be the best possible example as the parents of these children.
Resident Teddy Hatfield said the issue transcended all color, religious beliefs and political beliefs.
“Parents need to know that these kids still have a way out,” Hatfield said. “If you’re really in it and want to be in it, put your number on that piece of paper down there. Give us a call, give Tim a call. Somebody’s going to be there. If you need help, it’s not too far to get these kids back.”
Zakk Miller, the father of four children, said positive role models play a huge role in the lives of these children who commit crimes.
“I looked up to guys who tattooed their entire body, and that’s exactly what I did. These teenagers who are holding pictures of their guns, their drugs, their money, running around talking about killing people — that’s exactly what they’re going to want to do,” Miller said. “I think that if they see people they look up to being a part of this, they’re going to want to do it too. It was my peers who were influencing me more than anything.”
Several law enforcement officers were present for the meeting, including Owensboro Police Department Chief Art Ealum. Ealum said he and Collier spoke to Mayor Tom Watson and city officials Thursday morning about developing a program to combat this issue in the community.
“They want the same thing — they want this to work. But we have to have a plan of action, a committee,” Collier said. “I can’t do it alone. We have to do it as a group. We have to have parents involved, and we have to have people that are involved, involved. We’re not going to be able to do this overnight. Right now, we’re in an emergency state.”
Ealum said he discussed a midnight basketball league with Watson that would be held with the complete support of OPD. However, a committee would be needed to discuss costs and expectations.
“We know there’s grants out there,” Ealum said. “This is not a police issue, this is not a parent issue — this is a community issue. That means we need people from different sectors of the community, whether it be behavioral health, parents, police officers, doctors — we all have to work together in a collaborative effort to address these issues.”