SOUTH BEND—There have been shootings. Robberies of businesses and homes. Kids dealing drugs. Kids doing drugs. Gangbangers hanging out on private property
A 19-year-old was murdered last month in front of the convenience store at the corner of Prast and Olive Street.
And the throng of residents of this west-side community that showed up Tuesday night at the church across the street from last month’s murder scene was fed up.
“Boom, boom, boom, bang, bang, bang ... it’s still coming down the street,” said Betty Williams. “We can’t sleep at night.”
The culmination of a summer filled with violence that has wracked this neighborhood landed inside Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, with neighbors seeking answers from city officials who included Police Chief Darryl Boykins, 2nd District council member Henry Davis Jr., and Code Enforcement Director Catherine Toppel.
When it came to pointing a finger at the neighborhood’s main problem source, most of the neighbors’ questions, read by one of the meeting’s moderators, centered on the convenience store across from the church where 19-year-old Steven Chatman was gunned down Aug. 18.
Kids - some suspected gang members - reportedly hang out at the store at all hours of the night dealing drugs, doing drugs, then cruising surrounding streets in cars with music blaring, burglarizing homes and threatening neighbors.
“Can we legally close down this store?” read one of the questions.
Boykins acknowledged that while the store “is a problem,” most of the criminal activities are occurring outside the store - outside of the store owner’s control.
Besides, the police chief said, the same residents complaining about the store have been seen patronizing the business.
“I see a lot of people go to the store, the same people complaining about the store,” Boykins said. “It’s just not that store, there are other stores in other parts of the city that are just like it.”
“This is a continuing problem,” he added. “We’re just here to find solutions.”
One solution, one neighbor offered, was for the South Bend Police Department to assign beat patrols - officers walking the neighborhood on foot - “who will learn the people.”
The neighbor recalled being “out of town” and hearing from a friend that “three young men were sitting on my porch like they lived there.
“We need to know them,” the neighbor said of police, “and they need to know us so they know when there are strangers at our home when we’re not there. Fear has been placed on us. We don’t know what to do.”
Of police walking a beat in the neighborhood, Boykins said, “I would like to see that happen.”
Resident Beth Marvin doubted it would, however.
Marvin said when a young man was arrested for burglarizing her home, she found out that the intruder was “under house arrest for burglarizing another house when he hit mine.”
“And two days after he burglarized mine,” Marvin noted, “he burglarized another house down the street.”