There are a number of big events planned for downtown Omaha throughout the summer months.
Many visitors and residents are concerned about safety after two rival gangs opened fire Saturday night at 11th and Farnam Street killing 20 year old Jasmine Harris and injuring six others. Some in the community are asking that city leaders pass a zero tolerance policy on gangs.
Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer says, “The answer to that is no. To have a zero tolerance policy on gangs, many of these members are not doing anything wrong. It is a Constitution and it is not against the law to be in a gang. In order to have a suppression at that level you would have to triple the size of my police force and quite frankly the conditions under which we would live is not going to be something everybody wants to have. The key to adjusting gang violence is working with the community and have a strategic plan within the Omaha Police Department to address it.”
Chief Schmaderer says gun and gang violence has trended lower over the last three years. Now, all eyes are on the spike in violence and the death of Harris has brought this to the peak. He understands the frustration the public feels.
Chief Schmaderer says gang violence in Omaha typically spikes in May and they have been working hard on addressing that. He believes that was the case on Saturday. He says, “You get two or three violent individuals that do this and think it is fun and have no concept of anyone’s mortality or their own, they will continue to do this. Either the gang life gets them or the Omaha Police Department makes an arrest. I prefer the Omaha Police Department makes an arrest.”
Chief Schmaderer says whenever there is an event and they believe gang members will be there, gang unit members are mixed in with police and traffic officers.
Omaha Police and Gang Unit members were called to the downtown area after a disturbance involving about 20 juveniles leaving the Taste of Omaha Festival. Police used pepper balls to break up the fight. Harris and the others injured were innocent bystanders in this tragedy.