Published November 21 2005
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Extra police patrols were sent into the neighborhood around Weaver High School Monday and yellow-jacketed community activists were on watch after weekend shootings that injured five teenagers in the neighborhood.
In addition to sending out the patrols, Mayor Eddie Perez said he would be reaching out to troubled young people who made need help.
"This is not gang related," Perez said Monday. "This is clique related. Anybody who chooses to use violence to deal with disputes will be prosecuted. We are going to teach these kids not to use violence. This is just a very small percentage of kids who are involved in this."
The Rev. Cornell Lewis, a community activist and pastor of Norwich End Church of Christ, said the Men of Color "were out this morning, and men will be out tonight." Their distinctive yellow jackets alone are often sufficient to discourage mischief, he said.
In the first incident, three teenagers, ages 14 and 15, apparently were ambushed in Keney Park about 9:30 p.m. Saturday by a male with a shotgun as they walked from the Pond House to a basketball court, police said.
The second incident occurred shortly after 10 p.m. while officers were still searching the area around the basketball court for evidence. Police were called to Vine Street where two other youths, both 17, had been shot after a large group of teens congregated in front of an apartment building, police said.
Their injuries were not life-threatening, police said.
Weaver Principal Paul Stringer said Sunday he did not know enough about the shootings to say whether they are linked to any incidents at the school. He said a student was caught last Monday carrying a BB gun at school. He said a second "problem," on Thursday, resulted in students being suspended, but he declined to elaborate.
Andrew Woods, executive director of Hartford Communities That Care, is given credit for "facilitating" a truce between rival neighborhood gangs that began last spring and hopes the happenings of the past few days don't signal an end to the cease-fire.
Over the summer, he organized retreats at YMCA Camp Woodstock so the young men could get to know each other, got funding to pay the teens $10 an hour to clean up the neighborhood, and planned academic tutoring. It's been hard to maintain the "level of intensity" into the fall, Woods said.
"In many cases," he said, "these groups don't even know what their beef is. Small slights turn deadly."
Meanwhile, Pastor Lewis said Men of Color will be holding a 24-hour hunger strike beginning at 9 a.m. Thanksgiving Day in a building on Vine Street in an area frequented by drug dealers.
Copyright © 2005, The Associated Press