Cville police chief plans community meeting as gun violence spikes
Monday night’s community meeting is not the first of its kind. More than two years ago Charlottesville saw a spike in gun violence, and resident Bryan Page recalls what happened.
"People were just getting fed up in the neighborhood. Every week on Thursday we met with the community and from that we just bounced around ideas, and we decided to hit the streets!"
He and other men who knew the poorest neighborhoods in the city founded a group called Brothers United to Cease the Killing – the BUCK Squad. They walked around, talking to kids and their parents, finding out about local feuds, but they never went to the cops.
"We need people to have information, and we need people who are not afraid to share that information, because all of the information that we receive – it never goes to the police, and this is the only reason why the community will trust us," Page explains.
He knew what it would mean for a kid to be arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned. He was labeled a super predator at the age of 16 for armed robberies.
"I was the victim of laws that were passed to incarcerate kids. + and it cost me 12 years of my life."
Rather than talk to police, he and other members of the BUCK Squad intervene themselves – bringing families together, even if parents are in prison.
" Wherever the father is incarcerated we try to bridge that together and have a communication with the child and the father and the mother" Page says. "It starts in the household. You know we could come out here all day with programs, but if the parents are not participating in the process it will not be done."
His group has taken more than a thousand calls and intervened in 165 disagreements that could have turned violent. He can’t prove what he does is successful.
"Because you can’t really keep too much data on crime that does not happen," he argues.
But Page thinks this approach is working, and he hopes Monday night’s community meeting will produce other answers. He’s hopeful that the city’s new police chief will win the community’s trust.
"I feel like he’s trying to attack this problem, and I feel like he’s going to do it respectfully. He’s passionate about it."
And he asks every citizen to act with compassion, recognizing that young people who use guns have often experienced trauma of their own.
"You have kids going to school who can’t even concentrate because of the trauma within their home, and a kid can’t articulate his feelings or express himself to a guidance counselor to explain not having food on his table, or explain never seeing his father, or explain his mother smoking crack. They think this is normal."
Social problems are big and complex, but Page believes we can address them by providing resources to poor families, by giving kids more opportunities and by taking action to help at least one young person at a time.
"I remember as a child walking on this mall, hungry, watching people eating, and nobody even thought about offering me food. This is how kids feel. We are not accepted. We are not wanted, and we are not participating in the economy. We are outcasts, so you know they don’t have a problem – in broad daylight – taking a gun and killing someone."
Monday night’s community meeting is at 6 p.m. The location has been moved to Old Trinity Church, 415 10th Street in Charlottesville.