Lynn — More than 200 people packed an emotional Ingalls Elementary School auditorium Friday night for a community meeting in the wake of several violent incidents in the previous weeks.
City leaders, including Mayor Jared Nicholson, Police Chief Chris Reddy, School Superintendent Evonne S. Alvarez and members of the City Council and School Committee, were joined by Essex District Attorney Paul F. Tucker and members of the city’s state delegation to address and answer questions from the public.
Nicholson began the event by condemning the recent violence in the city. He stressed it was a large and complex problem that would take the actions of the whole community to work towards solving.
“If there was an easy solution to make it go away, that’s what we would do,” Nicholson said. “I genuinely embrace the idea that we as a community control our own destiny, and that our collective efforts will determine our future.”
The mayor stressed the city needs to rally to support the work of those who have been working in the city, and especially with young people, to keep the streets safe.
“We need to build on what exists already,” Nicholson said. “A lot of people in this city have been working hard for years to respond to and to prevent violence.”
Included in the discussion were Ward 6 City Councilor Fred Hogan, who is also the founder of Stop The Violence: Lynn, and Antonio Gutierrez of Lynn Youth Street Outreach Advocacy. Both have been involved with violence prevention work with the city’s young people.
“We’re not going to stop doing what we’re doing because these guys want to think they can take over our streets,” Hogan said. “It takes all of us…we are not going to give up, we’re going to stop the violence and we’re going to keep saving kids.”
Reddy said that the city was working to bring justice, not only to victims, but to the city as a whole.
“Although gun violence is a national problem, the impact is felt most significantly on a local level,” Reddy said.
According to Reddy, the department had responded to 26 shots-fired incidents and seized 36 firearms this year, which is lower than the 52 shots-fired incidents and 75 firearms seizures in 2022.
Reddy also credited the public’s assistance with the investigations into recent incidents, including sending the department video footage and passing tips that have moved investigations forward. He encouraged the public to do all they could to help in the investigations.
“I asked if you knew something or you had some information to please help us. You’re a part of the response,” Reddy said. “I am so grateful to say you did respond…I’m asking you to continue being a part of the solution.”
Reddy said there have been increased patrols, especially at middle and high schools around the times of arrival and dismissal, including the use of overtime resources.
According to Reddy, a particular concern in the city has been gang activity among teens, especially in the past year. He noted that gangs were recruiting younger and younger.
Tucker noted that though his office did its best to make sure that justice was administered fairly, prosecuting gun violence cases was a priority.
“It’s a balancing act between justice, which sometimes means punishment…and also balancing when to give someone a second chance,” Tucker said. “When it comes to gun violence… In Lynn, we have a gun court to expedite the case to make sure the people who belong in the system are not out on the street.”
According to Tucker, his office and other law enforcement officials are working to bring those who have brought much of the crime into the city to justice, noting that a small percentage of people were responsible for a large majority of the crime.
Tucker stressed the answer to what has been happening in the city is not solely in the justice system, but in the efforts of the community as a whole.
“Let’s not lose a generation of young people,” Tucker said. “Let tonight be the call to make sure we start to turn things around.”
Members of the community also voiced their feelings on the recent violence, as well as the solutions they believed the community needed most.
Natasha Megie-Maddrey, who is running for Ward 4 Councilor, urged the community to use their voice both at community events and at the ballot box, as one of the avenues to creating change in the city.
“We all need to come together and everybody’s voice matters,” Megie-Maddrey, a mother of five and grandmother, said. “We need to come out and vote, because if you don’t vote, nothing will ever change.”
Perla Gonzalez, who has a child in Lynn Public Schools, noted that it was important for parents and other community members to make one another aware of the opportunities available to families in Lynn.
“There are so many resources in this community,” Gonzalez said. “But, there are also people that don’t know or understand what those resources are.”
Lamar Harris, who works as a mentor, noted the importance of having more mentoring figures that represent the population they work with, and can relate to young people in need.
“A lot of people are afraid of the guy in the suit or the guy with a gun and a badge,” Harris said. “I think a lot of the problem is that they don’t have people that look like them.”
Harris noted it would be crucial to have more mentors who can relate to what young people in the community were facing at home, as well as in the streets.
“If you want the respect of the kids, get them people that they’re going to get respect from,” Harris said.