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With area law enforcement and community leaders by his side, Elder James Johnson on Tuesday urged the public to partner with local authorities to take a stance against crime.
Guns are everywhere, Johnson said, and people are dying. The Lowcountry can no longer afford to do nothing.
Headed by Johnson, the Tri-County National Action Network made its plea during a news conference at Charleston City Hall. The group was joined by Mayor Joe Riley, as well as state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen, North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers and other community leaders.
The gathering came in the wake of a shooting outside Northwoods Mall that sent one man to Medical University Hospital on Monday afternoon in serious condition. North Charleston police arrested two teenage suspects in the case late Tuesday afternoon.
"We can no longer ignore the increase in violence," Johnson said. "We're standing here with law enforcement because we need law enforcement, and law enforcement needs us."
Thirty-three homicides have been reported this year throughout the Lowcountry, records show. The latest happened Saturday night, when a father fatally shot his son, according to authorities.
During Tuesday's conference, Driggers said the North Charleston Police Department is doing everything it can to combat crime in the city. But law enforcement needs the community's help to track down suspects and put a stop to crimes before they happen.
"It's a partnership and that partnership needs to be strengthened every day," Driggers said.
Crimes go unsolved without community support and offenders remain on the street, Mullen said. As evidence, he cited the still unresolved shooting that killed Malcolm Jefferson, 18, of Charleston, on Forbes Street.
"We know that there are people who have witnessed these things and they just will not come forward and tell us," Mullen said. "What we need are people to start taking action, to stand up and say, 'We've had enough.' "
To decrease violence, communities first need to get illegal guns off the street, Gilliard said. He vowed during the conference to push for stricter legislation targeting offenders caught with illegal weapons.
"Far too many times you see crying mothers and crying fathers. ... The number one question they have is, 'Where are the guns coming from,' " Gilliard said. "At the end of the day, we're going to need each other to fight crime."
The number of illegal guns on the street is "alarming," Riley said. Unity between law-abiding residents and law enforcement will put criminals on the defensive, he said.
In coming weeks, The Tri-County National Action Network plans to reach out to Lowcountry pastors to encourage them to take a stand in their communities.
"The next generation is going to be much worse if we don't put a stop to this now," Johnson said.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.
Vanessa Halyard, mother of a murdered child, stresses the need to get out into the community to stop the violence during a news conference Tuesday at City Hall. Members of the community, law enforcement and city leaders gathered with the National Action Network to ask for community support in the fight against crime.×
Mayor Joe Riley and Elder James Johnson shake hands after talking about the need to stop the violence in the community during a news conference Tuesday at City Hall.×
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