HAMILTON, Ohio — Hamilton Police said they have faced issues with gang and gun violence going back for decades, so they’re trying to stop the trend by creating a community-wide effort.
That’s why Hamilton Police and Stanson Hemphill, a former gang member, spoke to a group of more than 50 people Tuesday night, in hopes that their testimony will spread through the community.
Hemphill, who was a gang member for 13 years, said the real problem is in the streets.
“Struggle has to happen in order for real change to happen," he said. "There can’t be real change without a struggle. Right now our community is struggling.”
He served a prison sentence, and is now hoping his testimony can save lives.
“As long as we remain quiet, we continue to condone the killing. Instead of saying, who got shot — the question should be — who fired the shot?” he said.
The group met inside H.Y.P.E. Hamilton, a nonprofit whose name stands for Helping Young People be Empowered.
Pastor Shaq Mathews, founder of H.Y.P.E., knows firsthand what gun violence can do.
“It came knocking at my door,” she said. “I lost my brother 4 years ago.”
Her brother, Calvin Simmons Jr., was shot and killed. To this day, she’s still waiting for justice.
“It’s our community. It’s up to us to take it back. We have to be proactive about applying pressure and holding people accountable, not letting people be comfortable with their criminal activity,” she said.
Hamilton Police Sgt. Gary Crouch spoke with the group Tuesday. He said they’ve taken 49 guns off the streets of Hamilton this year, but it will take a community effort to make a lasting change.
“Don’t you want someone to say what happened to you? I would. Everyone in the community is committed to being quiet,” Crouch said.
Now, community members are coming to grips with changing a culture of silence.
“Repetitive cycle -- Don’t nobody know nothing. Don’t know nobody see nothing.’ We need to stop that,” said Hemphill.
Mathews agrees it’s up to the community to make a change.
“We have to answer the call to help them, and kill the disconnect to solve the murders, and prevent this stuff from happening,” she said.