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'We’ve all got to work together’: At gun violence community meeting, Annapolis mayor and police chief listen to feedback

Aldermen Dajuan Gay, D-Ward 6, and Rhonda Pindell Charles, D-Ward 3, listen on as Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley speaks in the Eastport fire station following multiple shooting incidents in early February.
Aldermen Dajuan Gay, D-Ward 6, and Rhonda Pindell Charles, D-Ward 3, listen on as Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley speaks in the Eastport fire station following multiple shooting incidents in early February.(Donovan Conaway)

After back-to-back days of shooting incidents in early February, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley held a community meeting Monday to hear feedback and assure residents that police were responding to the issue.

Buckley spoke briefly to an audience of more than 50 in the Eastport fire station meeting room. He talked about wanting to get guns off the streets, but mainly he said he wanted to listen to the community.

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“We have got to find better ways to resolve our differences,” Buckley said. “I know this isn’t a policing-only issue or an issue that faith leaders or elected officials can solve on their own. That is why I want to hear from community members. We’ve all got to work together to find a way forward.”

The meeting was called due to gun violence in the area of the 1100 to 1299 block of Madison Street. On Feb. 10 there were two incidents of shots fired, one at 7 p.m., the other at 2 a.m., had officers responding, although no victims or suspects were found. On Feb. 11, officers responded to shots fired around 11:30 p.m. At that time, responding units found a 29-year-old male with injuries consistent with being shot. He was treated at an area hospital for non-life threatening injuries.

Annapolis Police are asking for the public’s help in the Feb. 11 incident. Those with information should contact APD detectives at 410-260-3439 or call Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP and submit an anonymous tip.

Police Chief Edward Jackson also attended the meeting. He answered questions and discussed the Annapolis Police Department’s community-policing initiatives.

“Harbour House is a challenged community,” Jackson said. “Out of that comes consequences, when you have hopeless poverty, drug addiction, absentee parents, substandard living conditions and schools that aren’t relevant. You are going to have destruction. I was brought here to bring a more social approach to crime. Crime is a manifestation of social problems.”

Jackson and the police department want to change conditions residents have been afflicted by over the years.

Many residents said they noticed officers aren’t visible. Those that are visible are merely driving by.

Jackson said the city would try to improve on that front.

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“That is one of the first things I noticed when I got here. We have to be more visible,” Jackson said. “We have to shift from a very reactionary model to be more of guardians. Part of our role is to prevent crime."

On the flip-side, being too visible also brings about its own complaints, Jackson said.

Also, the department wants to gain the trust of residents, so they can report suspicious activity without feeling scared.

“Most crimes are solved because people come forward with information,” Jackson said. “I’m here to tell you that murder is everybody’s business, I don’t care where it happens. We need people to collectively come together.”

Another concern of residents was the Housing Authority of the City Of Annapolis and its public housing units.

Melissa Maddox-Evans, executive director of the housing authority, addressed the room after someone asked if “good families with kids” could be moved into one building.

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“We are all the same people, the people within our housing communities have the same expectation of safety and protection as all of you here tonight,” Maddox-Evans said. “It is very important for us to not have the type of distinctions that I am hearing. Our families are suffering as well. Housing authority constituents are citizens of this city, we do everything that normal citizens do as well.”

There are officers that are assigned to public housing properties and those residents would like to see the same officers every day. Becoming familiar with an officer helps people share information without fear of retribution, Maddox-Evans said.

HACA and Department of Housing (HUD) are in talks to use their vacant units to become police substations.

“Our highest priority is to get investments into areas that need it the most,” said Buckley. “When people feel hopeless and that we have given up on them, they give up on themselves. We have to show that our highest priority is our most marginalized population. This a great community that we live in and we always step up in times of challenges. We always come together we need to come together.”

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