The Star Democrat
‘It’s not safe outside’
Hotspot of violence erupts in Cambridge
CAMBRIDGE — Residents and leaders in Cambridge are looking for answers after a recent increase in violence that has left two teens dead in as many weeks. Both November killings in the Greenwood Avenue corridor took place a block apart, the latter just yards from the scene of a fatal shooting in April.
The Sunday afternoon, Nov. 7, shooting on the 500 block of Greenwood Avenue took place in the open, while the shooting that killed one teen and seriously injured another happened Nov. 18 in a residence on Camelia Street, near the intersection of that street and Greenwood Avenue.
The hyper-localized violent crimes, most occurring in a relatively limited area over recent months, were accentuated by another apparent shooting nearby on Sunday evening, Nov. 21.
The shootings resulting in three deaths and even more serious injuries has residents of the city, as well as local law enforcement and elected leadership determined to find an answer.
“This increase in violent crime is the highest priority of the state’s attorney’s office,” said Dorchester County State’s Attorney Bill Jones on Tuesday, Nov. 23. “Many factors contribute to this situation.”
Jones said criminals and the public could expect a reaction soon. “We are coordinating with law enforcement to increase the police presence in the areas most impacted by violent crime,” he said.
“Coordination and planning is taking place currently among law enforcement at every level and the public will soon see initiatives resulting from that planning,” he continued. “Community outreach will be occurring as well so that residents are aware of these crime prevention and enforcement efforts.”
The recent outbreak of violence prompted local faith leaders to hold a Peace Walk on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 21, starting at the Dorchester County Recreation and Parks build
ing, proceeding down Cosby Avenue, up the 500 block of Greenwood Avenue, down Park Lane and then down Leonards Lane.
The participants prayed and sang, passing the spot on Greenwood Avenue where the 18-year-old victim was fatally shot two weeks before almost to the minute.
Near that spot, two educators on the march greeted young onlookers they knew from school.
After the march, one educator related a recent conversation with a 5-year-old student in one of the city’s elementary schools. “There’s a lot of shootings at my house,” the youngster said. “It’s not safe outside.”
Council President and Ward 2 Commissioner Lajan Cephas and Ward 1 Commissioner Brian Roche joined the Peace Walk.
“This is not hopeless,” Cephas said. In addition to physical changes like increased law enforcement presence and better lighting among other possibilities, she emphasized another dimension.
“Prayer changes things, people’s hearts, outcomes,” Cephas said.
“The vast majority of people in the city are good,” Roche said. “We can’t let that small percentage of people win.”
“There’s hope,” he said. “Living in fear is not what we’re going to.”
In addition to the injuries and deaths, the psychological impact on residents of the affected neighborhoods is heavy. Loved ones near the scene of the fatal shooting on Camelia Street huddled in the cold wind with shock and sadness written on their faces as investigators marked and photographed empty shell casings that littered the street.
Neighbors peeked from behind curtains in nearby houses, some of which were hit by bullets from this encounter, or perhaps another shooting.
In the street, law enforcement officers appeared determined, as did Ward 4 Commissioner Sputty Cephas.