Community rallies to end violence in Sumter neighborhoods - - Columbia, South Carolina

Community rallies to end violence in Sumter neighborhoods

(Source: Sumter Police Department) (Source: Sumter Police Department)

Cries for peace echoed through the streets of South Sumter Saturday morning as close to 500 people called for an end to violence.

There have been at least a dozen shootings in the city since January and that's prompting churches and community leaders to take action.

They say reporting crime is hard for many residents mostly because they're scared of retaliation. It's a process community leaders say they're now trying to make easier through teamwork.

"We had been planning for this for a while," said Sumter resident Patricia Lewis.

"We letting them know that we're stopping this violence and we ain't going to have it no more."

A dreary rainy morning wasn't enough to stop crowds as they would take a message of hope and community healing to the streets.

"We were very excited by so many people coming out," said Sumter Councilman Calvin Hastie.

Since the beginning of the year, shootings have popped up in the city one after the other.

City Council points to as many as 15 so far, with police sometimes investigating multiple cases at a time.

Hastie said the biggest barrier to solving them is getting help from the public.

"Right down this street there was a shooting and there must have been ten people out there but when the police department arrived and said who saw what happened, no one would talk," Hastie said. "We decided that we are going to try to do something about it. This is a movement here in the City of Sumter."

For leaders of churches and civic groups alike, part of the movement is curbing fears.

They've helped form several neighborhood watch groups, giving residents anonymous ways to report crimes.

And the message of peace isn't just contained to city limits.

"Mayesville has its own violence and it's time to just stop the violence everywhere," said Mayesville resident Margie Jefferson.

Organizations from across Sumter County took part in the march and used the event to educate young children.

"If we can instill in them now, not to do anything that is violent to another person, we can have a better community, not only in Mayesville but in the entire state," said Mayesville resident Jessie Washington.

A mission some marchers said they'll keep pressing for as they work to promote peace by making more noise.

"It's the people who may not be here who we're trying to get the message to," said Patricia Lewis. "The movement we're starting now, there are more to come."

Hastie said he's trying to keep communication open with residents in Sumter.

He's wants to get town hall meetings set up around the city in the coming weeks so people can let police know what they've been seeing.

There is also a special tip line Sumter city residents can use to report crimes. That number is 436-2700.

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly