Community mourns lives lost in series of shootings, urges prevention
After a deadly summer, people around Anchorage are hoping to turn things around. At least nine young men have been shot to death in the last three months. On Friday, dozens turned out for an anti-gun violence rally and vigil at The Drift Gallery Dance Studio. The event was organized by a grass roots group known as Spread Love AK.
“In dark times like this it is important that we remember not to exert our energy negatively, but to put that energy into being caring and compassionate towards one another, ” said Ali Stover, founder of the group.
Local musicians, families and some strangers grieved together at the event.
“A close friend of mine happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said 21 year-old Franklyn Bort told the crowd. “When he was trying to have a good time with his friends on New Years, he caught a bullet that wasn’t meant for him.”
Local rap artist Stevie The Blessed echoed Bort’s concern.
“That really hit home to me, hearing on more than one occasion where my brothers have been so close to somebody that ended up losing their life and you know I think some of these people it’s the victim, some of these people are just happened to be wrong place wrong time,” Stevie said.
In a separate Facebook Live event Friday morning, former gang investigator Scott Lofthouse and community leader Ma’o Tosi said the key to keeping crime down is building relationships between the people closest to it and the police.
“Currently there are no relationships like that,” Tosi said. “In 2005, there was a strong relationship. What you saw from 2005 to 2016 is a divide, it spread and spread in a way, I don’t even believe I’ve met the police chief yet.”
Tosi says events like the one organized by Spread Love AK can only go so far. “At some point you’re gonna run out of gas if our city does not support these,” he said.
“It takes a community-wide effort to prevent gang violence and crime in our community,” said APD spokeswoman Jennifer Castro in a statement. “In order to have a positive and healthy relationship you must communicate, build trust and engage with one another. The department works daily to earn the trust of the community it serves, and with each and every contact that we have with our citizens. Our officers are at community meetings and engagements on a weekly basis to listen to concerns from our citizens and to find ways on how we can work together to combat crime and violence in our community.”
Stover and those in attendance say they’ll carry a positive message home – one they hope will spread.
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