If North Sarasota wants to rise up, it's going to have to help itself, a panel told the community Thursday night at a District 1 Public Safety and Education Forum.
"If you don't do nothing tomorrow, don't come back next time, punk," City Commissioner Willie Charles Shaw told the crowd.
The panel, organized by Shaw and County Commissioner Carolyn Mason, shared with residents that vigilance, communication, inclusion and action is what the North Sarasota community needs to overcome open-air drug markets, concentrated violence and disadvantages.
"We live in the most segregated community I've seen," said public defender Larry Eger, 12th Judicial Circuit. "Racially, age, ethnically, and financially."
And as strange as it sounds, Eger continued, you have to include and talk to the because if they're in the community, they're a part of it and they need help to turn it around.
How bad is the situation for police? Beyond the actual homicides, there's a lack of trust, Mikel Hollaway said.
During a recent homicide, a shooting victim told officers he knew who shot him, but refused to tell them who did it, Hollaway said. The victim eventually died from their injuries, he added.
It's the apathy that's almost as frustrating.
"I have not personally heard an outcry in the community that enough is enough," Hollaway said. "I have not seen in our black newspapers articles talking about black-on-black crime. We can talk about everything else, but we can't talk about our kids killing one another. Where's that? Where is that?"
The and the city planning a trip to meet crime expert David Kennedy to develop a strategy for the city. Kennedy was tabbed to be at last week's meeting, but he had a scheduling issue, Shaw said.
Some residents suggested to repopulate the Enough is Enough group that dwindled in support and participation. The group organizes neighborhood walks, just checking on people, and singing a song that reminds them of steps to prevent crime, said the group's organizer Alton Everett.
"We tried to engage people to stop the violence," Everett said. "It didn't resonate so readily."
Shaw's FOCUS group formed from the Ministerial Alliance, are organizing folks to show up to crime scenes to talk and comfort families and calm down crowds and would be easily recognizable by wearing neon yellow T-shirts.
The problem is multi-generational through the community, the panelists pointed out. Some concentrated to the problem adults, others on the long-standing broken households and repeat offenders in the family, while children and teenagers seem to be the focus. But as important as it is to help those already in trouble, Yvette Robison, manager of North Sarasota County Library.
"We have to take care of those who are already in the river, but we've got to do something for the children before they turn age 3 to keep them out of the river in the first place," Robison said. One of the ways the library tries to do that is through a reading program on the third Saturday of the month, she added.
To start turning the tide, Superintendent Lori White said it starts with one person making a difference in one child's life.
"If each individual did what they could to change the life of one child, it makes a difference," White said. "We see everyday phenomenal things happening to my kids that every statistic, everything in their history points for them to be going downhill."
Role models from North Sarasota who have gone to be successful plays a part of that, the panelists said. Hollaway is a North Sarasota native, and so is Dr. Marie Byrd-Blake from USF Sarasota-Manatee's College of Education and Booker High School's assistant principal Edwina Oliver.
"I, too am a product of this community and educated in this system and this school district, and I don't think they did so bad by me or any of the other natives who sit beside me and all along the table," she said.
Mason stressed the importance of talking about these issues to get them out in the open and try to get solutions instead of complaints.
"We have to keep the dialogue going," she said. "If we stop talking, we're done."