Police, city officials, commissioners, clergy members, neighbors, school leaders — at least 60 of them — packed into a small room at a community center after work Tuesday and pledged to take back the Heart of Boynton streets from shooters who this month have sprayed hundreds of bullets in their neighborhoods and remain free.
“It’s not a police problem. It’s not a clergy problem. It’s not a city official problem. It’s a community problem. But you know what? It’s our community and so we have to own some of the things that have taken place in our community,” said Rev. Richard Dames, who is a member of the Boynton Beach Coalition of Clergy , the organization that planned the meeting at the Carolyn Sims Center.
Among the attendees: 12-year-old Kamar Brown who was shot in the leg Jan. 20 while skateboarding home from his grandmother’s house. Kamar, a junior usher at Bible Church of God and a student at Congress Middle School, is on crutches after he was shot on Northwest Fourth Street.
The group said improving the family dynamic, more trust in police and more beneficial and accessible programs are key.
Residents are concerned about the loitering outside of neighborhood markets and why kids are gathered unsupervised at late-night hours at the Ezell Hester Jr. Community Park. They urged their neighbors to show more love to those on the street and help them learn how to get off it.
“You have to go out there and talk to the ones that are doin’ it,” resident Gloria Goolsby pleaded. “Everybody wants to be loved on. Those drug dealers that stand in front of the stores, they want to be loved on. It takes two. We have to be the giants. I’ll do it but I need one somebody to come with me.”
The clergy coalition handed out a paper called “A New Deal for the Heart of Boynton” that listed objectives such as creating a police advisory board and a participatory budgeting council and a $15 “livable wage law.”
Immediate plans weren’t made Tuesday, but the group challenged one another to keep the momentum alive and attend the March 12 community meeting.
“This is Boynton Beach. We gotta take our streets back,” resident Cheryl Grimes said.
Since Jan. 1 there have been 15 reports of shootings. Three people, including Kamar, have been shot and at least 10 buildings have been hit.
Interim Police Chief Kelly Harris said there are more patrols in the area.
While residents said they won’t speak up with information because they are scared of retaliation, Harris stressed they can come forward anonymously.
Police set up an anonymous tip line: 561-742-6802. Residents can also anonymously call Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County at 800-458-TIPS (8477). Anyone with information that leads to an arrest could be eligible for a reward. Police also accept anonymous tips on the department’s website, www.bbpd.org, or on the MyPD app.