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Reading mayor plans crime summit to combat rash of gun violence

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 18 2012 03:54:55 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 19 2012 04:23:04 AM CDT

A recent rash of violence in Reading has city leaders sounding the alarm.

READING, Pa. -

A recent rash of violence in Reading has city leaders sounding the alarm. The mayor and police chief put the problem front and center Wednesday afternoon during a news conference in council chambers.

"We all need to come together to address what we're seeing," said Mayor Vaughn Spencer, D-Reading.

Spencer and police Chief Bill Heim called the meeting following a violent weekend with two shootings in 24 hours.

"The easy access to guns is helping to cause violence to escalate with deadly results," said Heim.

Janzir Antoine, 19, was found dead Friday night near North 10th and Perry streets.

On Saturday night, a man was shot in the face only blocks away, near North 10th and Oley streets, said police.

"When an incident occurs in your neighborhood, we need for you to stand up and let the police know what happened," said Spencer.

According to Heim, the incidents happening are not random. There has not been an increase in shootings, he said, but the number of homicides by gunshot stands at nine, which is on track to pass last year's number.

"I think city officials need to crack down a little bit harder on things for kids to do," said Renee Little, who lives near the scene of Friday night's shooting. "There's nothing for the kids to do out here."

"They just running around like they don't have sense, and they're shooting and killing one another, and it's crazy," said Mary Stevenson, who also lives near North 10th and Perry streets.

According to police, guns are being stolen out of cars and homes. Now, the mayor wants parents to step up and take responsibility.

"We need to stop pointing the finger at particular entities saying they should be doing more," said Spencer. "What are you doing to help solve the problem?"

According to the mayor, the city is in the process of arranging a crime summit. He wants to meet with state and federal officials to see what additional resources they can get to fight crime.