Residents live in fear as guns, drug violence rise

| Friday, May 10, 2013, 5:45 p.m.

Uniontown City Council and its police chief agreed this week to meet with the city's East End residents in an effort to resolve issues with gun violence, bombings and drug activity, especially in the Pershing Court area.

Approximately 30 members of the East End community told Mayor Ed Fike and city council members they fear for their own safety and the safety of their families because of recent shootings, explosions and other violent activity.

The Rev. Gary Yarbrough, pastor of Interfaith Assembly for Christ Church in the East End community, told council he was representing nine black churches of the East End Ministerial Alliance.

Yarbrough told council he has the support of about 500 residents who signed petitions aimed to “stop the violence in the East End community.”

Residents are concerned about “shootings that are taking place day and night in the Pershing Court housing complex and surrounding area.”

Yarbrough said bullets have been flying through windows, walls and doors of the homes of innocent victims.

“Bombs and/or explosives were found recently in Pershing Court,” he added. “This is not Afghanistan. Residents in the community are in fear of their lives. They are afraid to walk down the street, sit on their porches or just go to bed for fear of being shot by a stray bullet.”

Yarbrough said residents are moving out of the community because of fear.

“Some are even afraid to stay in their homes,” he added. “Just recently, one family had to stay with their pastor and his family for a few days. Again, others can't sleep because they are afraid a stray bullet may come through the walls, and they may never wake up.”

Yarbrough said the Concerned Citizens of the East End have had meetings with the management of Pershing Court with no results.

“The police show up and they drive around, but they are on most occasions too late or they initiate no readily ascertainable steps to quell the disturbance or end the criminal activity,” Yarbrough said.

Fike and police Chief Jason Cox assured the residents that the city is prepared to take whatever action is necessary to restore safety to the East End.

“I would be glad to meet with you to discuss these issues,” Cox said. “The police are trying to do everything that we can, but we are open to guidance and suggestions. I will sit down with you, and we can go over your concerns point by point.”

Since funding for the city's Weed & Seed program ran out, Cox said city police, the Fayette County Drug Task Force and state police have continued to patrol and saturate the area whenever possible in an effort to crack down on crime, drug activity and violence.

“The activity has been ongoing,” Yarbrough said. “It is a shame that when a 2-year-old child hears gunshots, they know to dive for the floor. When young children get off the school bus, they are afraid of being shot and have to look around to make sure nothing is going on before they head toward their homes.”

Cindy Ekas is a freelance writer.

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