By Jackson Ibelle
At the beginning of May, Neighborhoodscout.com released a report of the 100 most dangerous cities in America in 2015 based on the number of violent crimes per 1,000 people. Twelve cities from New England made it on the list, led by New Haven, Connecticut at #36. Noticeably left off of the list: Providence, RI.
But since this report came out, May has been a month marred by violence for the capital city. Since a drive by on Prairie Ave on the 14th, there has rarely been a day without shots fired. The violence culminated last night, when there were four shootings throughout the city. During this span of seventeen days, there have been three murders, doubling the years total, and at least eighteen shootings. The spike in activity isn’t limited to one or two neighborhoods; this has been a citywide issue.
Late last night, police were called to Orms street for a report of gunshots. While on scene, they were called to a nearby bar on Smith St, where a patron had been shot in the leg. While leaving the scene on Smith St, they heard 9 to 10 additional shots in the Orms St area. Meanwhile, on Harriett St, on the city’s south side, there was another victimless shooting. It is a miracle that throughout this rough night, nobody was killed.
Things didn’t end so well on the night of May 15th at Pasha Hookah Bar, a popular late night spot in Washington Park, on Allens Ave. Shortly after midnight, that night; 22 year old Kevin Mann Jr. and a friend were shot, resulting in his death. Police still have not solved the murder investigation.
Shortly after, on May 26th, Mann’s cousin, Russell Brown, became another shooting victim at a gas station on Manton Ave. He was able to drive himself to the hospital and survive. A few days after the incident, Brown made an important statement to ABC6. “I’m not looking for retaliation and I want the people in the streets from the other side, even the person or the people who took shots at me to understand that I don’t want retaliation and I’m not out here looking for you.” This mentality is uncommon in today’s America. Rather than work to stop the violence, the initial reaction is to get revenge.
Brown is not the only person trying to make sure that the deadly month of May doesn’t spill into the rest of the summer. People from all over the city gathered in the chapel of the Salvation Army building on Broad St last Thursday, to discuss a plan going forward. The crowd ranged from family members of the victims, to cops, to ex-cons. One woman echoed the sentiments of Brown: “A body for a body is not the answer.”
Mayor Elorza has also started to get involved, announcing the return of Providence’s midnight basketball leagues. The leagues last thrived about fifteen years ago, but Elorza thinks that “these programs are integral in our efforts to reduce violence by providing our young people with positive activities and safe places where they can spend their time together.” Community activist Kobi Dennis says that “For years the midnight league was the talk in all the barbershops … community centers and so on, but it never came to fruition.” The games will take place Tuesday and Thursday nights from 9:00 PM to midnight at Bucklin, Gano, Davey Lopes and Davis parks.
A month after Providence beat out twelve of its neighboring cities in avoiding violence, the city is in an interesting place. Despite the soar in violence this spring, Providence still has two less murders than it did at this time last year. In fact, all violent crime besides sexual assaults is down from 2014. The reasons for this are unclear but this year’s unorthodox weather could be a clue. This year, Providence totaled 76.1 inches of snow, compared to an average of 34.3. The brutal winter proved to be a great crime deterrent, as the city didn’t record its first murder until the first week of April. When put in that context it is troubling how quickly we are catching up to previous year violent crime stats. It raises the question: has this spring simply been a fluke, or will this summer bring more of the same?