September 13, 2010
A 17-year-old is gunned down in front of his family in a public park. Now, the Salina community is asking questions about its safety. So Monday, the Police Chief provided some answers.
"Is Salina a dangerous place to live? You saw the data, no," said Salina Police Chief Jim Hill.
Hill's response comes after some members of the public say they won't return to Sunset Park, where 17-year-old Derek Rico was shot and killed in an apparent gang related shooting in late July. The public response spurred the Salina City Commission to ask for a report on crime and gangs.
"I can tell you pretty much exactly what caused it, respect. Disrespect," said Hill.
Disrespect is a common theme to gang-related incidents, according to Hill. So he says the instance is a sign gangs are an emerging problem in Salina. But he also says gangs are not yet an established problem.
"We want to make sure that we stay ahead of the curve and we basically stop it before, like a cancer, it grows and it spreads," said Hill.
But for now, Hill says residents shouldn't be afraid, as Salina's violent crime rate falls below other cities in Kansas including Wichita, Topeka, and Lawrence.
"The numbers reflect that. It's hard to argue with the numbers," said Hill.
And he says a new program involving more officers and greater prevention efforts aims to stop a growing problem in its tracks. It also aims to prevent incidents like July's from happening again.
"When you think about it, it's so ridiculous that someone has to be shot, or someone has to die over some slight, some perceived disrespect," said Hill.
Hill says he's added officers and a crime analyst to a special enforcement bureau focusing on gang activity. The department is also starting a program to inform parents when their children may be getting involved in gangs.