Roundtable discussions held addressing violence in Chester

- Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland hosted two roundtable discussions addressing violence in Chester.

You've heard the expression "preaching to the choir?" Well, meet the choir.  More than 100 Chester residents who care enough about their community came to City Hall on a bitter cold Thursday night to search for solutions to an out-of-control crime problem. 

In the middle of the chaos, we found the Taylor family: Joy and Terrence and 8-month-old Terrence Jr.

"I'm highly concerned," said Joy. "I mean I am not immune to anything that happens here. I am a part of this community. I have a child that I'm raising here. He's a young black male. Young black males have targets on their backs. And it's important for me to make sure that I'm listening and I'm aware of what is going on."

Chester's murder rate in 2016 was roughly 4 times higher than that of Philadelphia. And this year the city is on pace to double last year's carnage.

Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland blamed some of the violence on easy availability of handguns.  "Our young people today," said the mayor. "It's easier for them to get a gun than to get a book."

Residents were asked to list the issues that concern them. On that list; abandoned homes, trash, teen loitering, absence of security cameras, absentee parents and yes, Chester police literally asleep on the job. 

"I live by the Calvary Baptist Church," Kristina Wright told the crowd, "And there's a  (police) car in the back of my backyard and-- I have it on camera-- he's sleeping!  And that's a problem."

Wright brought a banner to the meeting with the names of Chester murder victims dating back to 1980.

Edith Blackwell found the names of her two nephews. 

"It hurt," Blackwell told FOX 29's Bruce Gordon. "When I saw that I just couldn't help but just cry."

Blackwell herself was hit by a stray shot during a 2012 gas station shootout. She says she considered leaving Chester, "But I still love my town and I just believe there's hope."

As Terrance Jr. nursed on a bottle, oblivious to the noise around him, Joy Taylor made clear his life may depend on that hope and what becomes of it.

"It's important for me to make sure I know what's going on so I can protect my child."

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