Community looking for ways to stop violence
A somber group of Beaumonters gathered in the auditorium of the Solid Rock Community Church in the city’s north end Thursday, Sept. 26, but it wasn’t the pastor, Bishop Mark Smith, the group was there to listen to. Taking to the pulpit stage was a panel of Beaumont dignitaries, police personnel, judiciary members, and academics. The group had assembled from all aspects of the community to address the violence plaguing Beaumont, made prevalent by a robbery/ shooting death that occurred just steps from the church’s front door roughly a week before the group’s gathering.
Beaumont residents in the audience said they were frightened, angry and concerned about what transpired, costing a young man his life. According to reports from the Beaumont Police Department, the shooting victim, identified as 25-year-old Duayne Deandre- Devon Smith, was attempting to rob the clerk of an illegal gaming room operating on Lucas Street near the Solid Rock Community Church. He was with two other suspects who are still at large. Those attending the town hall meeting held at the church condemned not only the actions of the shooting victim robber, but also those of the game-room owner, who they say is operating outside of the law inside of the city.
Samuel said he, too, wanted to see an end to the violence, but he could not think of a cure-all remedy to address the issue.
“There is no panacea when it come to dealing with violence,” he said. “We have to see the signs going on all around us. It’s going to take an entire community to turn this thing around.”
Other panelists agreed.
“It has been said that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” Beaumont Magistrate Judge Terrence Holmes said. “But we’re at the end of the process, trying to fix something that’s already a problem. It’s no lie that poverty and low economics in the community cause crime. Maybe if we solve the economic problem, maybe people wouldn’t turn to drugs and alcohol.”
Criminal District Judge John Stevens said that drugs and drug-related crime account for two-thirds of the cases brought before his court. And that doesn’t even address the problem of juvenile delinquency.
“Every year, approximately 900 juveniles are referred to the juvenile detention office because the school can’t do anything with them,” he said, adding that there needs to be a better way to rehabilitate the community’s youth.
“We have to get our legislature involved,” Justice of the Peace Tom Gillam said. “We have a problem that needs to be addressed – and it needs to be addressed at a level higher than local.”
In the meantime, Beaumont City Councilman Jamie Smith recommended the local population work with the Beaumont Police Department to clean up the city streets and thwart violence.
“Call the police – and keep calling,” he said. “We don’t have enough officers to keep one on every street corner, but if you call they will come. The number is (409) 832-1234; if it’s an emergency, call 911.
“The police here are good officers. I’m proud of my Beaumont Police Department, and I stand behind them 100 percent.”
Beaumont Police Department Chief Jimmy Singletary said his office was diligently working to secure the whole community’s trust along with that of the city leaders.
“We’re out there with you,” Singletary told the assembled residents. “Y’all are our No. 1 priority.”
Beaumont Police Department Sgt. Rob Flores echoed his boss’s sentiments when addressing the crowd.
“This is the first meeting here, at this location, but this is not the first meeting we’ve had,” Flores explained, then detailed the fact that BPD attends more than 13 neighborhood association meetings monthly. “We’re in this community, and we’re involved in this community.”
Bishop Mark Smith said the town hall was a success he hopes to replicate in the near future.
“We are in the planning stages of organizing another meeting,” Smith said. “We’ve had several people come up with heightened interest in trying to do more things in the community; they are getting the message to be more ‘pro-active’ than ‘re-active.’
“We’re trying to put a positive on a terrible negative. The struggle goes on.”
Smith said that he hopes more residents will take an interest in turning Beaumont around, and added that anyone interested in assisting in that goal could contact him at (409) 658-7475.