Rev. Talbert Swan, NAACP urge Springfield police to increase Old Hill patrols in wake of shooting

By Patrick Johnson, The Republican
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on January 20, 2014

SPRINGFIELD — The head of the Greater Springfield Chapter of the NAACP on Monday asked Police Commissioner William Fitchet to step up patrols in the area of Union Street in the Old Hill neighborhood to help reduce problems from violence, gangs and drugs.

Rev. Talbert W. Swan II, in a letter to Fitchet, said recent criminal activity along the Union Street corridor “are indicative of an unfortunate culture of violent offenses and gun related incidents that threaten the safety of residents in that neighborhood.”

Swan’s letter was issued less than a day after an unnamed man was shot in the head at about 11 p.m. Sunday near 515 Union St. The man, though critically injured, is expected to survive, according to police.

The scene of the most recent shooting was just a few doors away from the city’s most recent homicide. Abdul-Azeez Baker, 21, died of multiple gunshot wounds after he was shot inside 513 Union St. on Dec. 22.

There have been no arrests in either case.

Four of the city’s 19 homicides last year were in the Old Hill/Six Corners neighborhoods.

“The drug activity and other illegal acts, which occur on a regular basis in this area, is of great concern to the residents, business owners, faith community and other concerned parties and stakeholders,” Swan said.

For Sunday night’s shooting to occur on the eve of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday “demonstrates the blatant disregard for life and property by the criminal element that terrorizes this community,” Swan said.

Swan said he and members of the neighborhood are interested in working with police to develop a plan to “drive out the thug element and make it safer for residents and other concerned parties.”

He said he is arranging a community meeting for 11 a.m. Friday at the Spring of Hope Church, 35 Alden St., and invited Fitchet to attend.

Fitchet, in October, re-deployed the department’s Street Crimes Unit to target hot spots as a way to curb violence. The order came days after a spate of violence that saw four homicides in a two-week period, including two in Old Hill just blocks away from Union Street.

Fitchet’s aide, Sgt. John Delaney, said if Swan wants to work with the police to curb violence there, the department would welcome it.

“The police department embraces help from the community and the clergy in helping to solve the problem of gangs, drugs and gun violence in the city of Springfield,” Delaney said. “The police department needs cooperation from the community in all parts of the city.”

He said representatives from the department will be at the meeting on Friday.

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