- Associated Press - Thursday, March 16, 2017

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - Muncie and Delaware County officials have formed a coalition to end gun violence in the area.

Mayor Dennis Tyler, police Chief Joe Winkle, Sheriff Ray Dudley and prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold announced the formation of The Mayor’s Council to End Gun Violence on Wednesday, The Star Press (https://tspne.ws/2mwjZpq ) reported.

The move comes after three fatal shootings over a nine-day period in February.

Tyler said the initiative aims to get illegal guns off the streets of Muncie. The group also wants to provide positive alternatives to violence and a safe community for all residents.

Tyler said the council will focus on creating summer jobs for people ages 16 to 24 and forming crisis intervention programs. It also will concentrate on fostering positive relations between the community and police.

“If we can get a few of these young men and women to trust us, the neighborhoods to trust us, we find them jobs, we find them a positive alternative lifestyle, then they can go right back out into that neighborhood and say, ‘See, this will work.’”

Tyler said the effort won’t be successful “without everybody buying into it.”

Arnold said Muncie isn’t dealing with a high number of homicides, but said that could change.

“It’s not so much the numbers (of slayings) that have changed,” he said. “The epidemic of heroin has changed the rules on the street. Those rules have changed so much we have to do something before it gets completely out of hand.”

The mayor said the effort is in its early stages and encouraged anyone with suggestions to contact a member of the council.

“If this works this year, in my opinion, and we can find 10 young men and women that we can put in sustainable jobs, and they can begin to have some self-worth in their lives again, this thing’s a home run to me,” Tyler said.

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Information from: The Star Press, https://www.thestarpress.com

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