After seven weeks of operation and more than 1,500 plates of barbecue given out, Operation Peace Treaty has finished collecting surveys assessing Greenwood-area residents’ thoughts on gun violence and other community issues.
According to the results of the survey, gun violence and the fear of young people getting shot are among residents’ main concerns.
“The survey speaks for itself,” said Lavoris Weathers, the founder and head of Operation Peace Treaty, the anti-gun-violence group formed in July in response to a rash of fatal shootings and other shooting incidents that occurred in June.
From July to September, Operation Peace Treaty visited various communities to invite residents to fill out surveys in exchange for free plates of barbecue. The survey, created by Weathers, asked four open-ended questions:
• How can we make your community a safer place?
• What are you afraid of in your community?
• Do you feel you need more lighting in your community?
• When was the last time you saw or talked to your county supervisor or City Council member?
A total of 527 surveys were collected across seven locations — the Robert Moore Recreational Building, on Carrollton Avenue; the Greenwood Mentoring Group’s building on Avenue G; Sam Leach Park, in the GP neighborhood; the Snowden-Jones Apartment complex, off Main Street; Broad Street Park; Baptist Town; and Rustom Auto, off Main Street.
Ryan Parsons, a Greenwood-based Princeton University graduate student who studies poverty in the Delta, collected all of the surveys at each location in order to condense the data into several main themes.
Since last September, Parsons had also assisted with an academic report produced by researchers from Princeton and the University of Michigan that identified the nation’s most disadvantaged communities. Leflore County was ranked as the seventh most disadvantaged community, according to the report. Parsons’ interviews will be used as stories to accompany the data of the academic report.
Gun violence also was a prominent topic of Parsons’ interviews with low-income families.
Two things that stood out in his analysis of the survey responses, Parsons said, were that respondents worried more about children being shot than themselves and that the problem of gun violence — which includes fatal shootings as well as drive-by shootings — was arbitrary, meaning though only a few people are actually responsible for shootings, the ripple effects reach many others.
“There’s nothing you can really do to avoid gun violence” unless a person moves, though people can’t always afford to do so, Parsons noted.
For the question on how to improve the community, 24% of respondents answered that gun violence needed to be curbed, while 18% reported providing more meaningful programs for youth, such as intervention programs for those from rough home environments, would be helpful.
Increasing the efficacy of law enforcement was a main theme for 11% of respondents on improving the community, though respondents were conflicted as to how to do that. Parsons said some respondents wanted more patrols or more surveillance cameras, while others said they wanted fewer patrols and no cameras.
Other key themes Parsons noticed for the question on how to improve the community included bringing the community together, which included a variety of answers, such as restoring abandoned houses, organizing community events and adopting the mindset that “it takes a village to raise a child.”
Additionally, Parsons said he was surprised to see that respondents had nuanced complaints about the lack of basic public services.
Poor or lacking trash pickup was an example found in the survey results, Parsons said, which meant it’s hard for residents to take pride in their community since trash still lingers. Furthermore, lingering trash can create the perception to outsiders that residents don’t care about their community, he added.
In another case, Parsons said some respondents complained about the lack of upkeep for public parks, creating a cynicism among residents in what they believe local leaders can do.
Sixty-three percent of respondents said they’re most fearful of violence in the community, specifically gun violence; 6% said they fear for the safety of children, which included responses such as children getting shot.
Forty-six percent of respondents reported that they had never seen or met with their local elected county or city leaders; 13% reported that they could not remember the last time they met with their local representative, 10% said they had met with an official more than a year ago and 21% said they had met with their leader in the past year.
To foster a better community across the board, Parsons said issues such as gun violence and public services all must be addressed.
“It’s all related,” he said. “You can’t just surgically address one of these issues and ignore the others. They all feed into each other.”
Weathers said he has provided copies of the survey results to all the county supervisors and Greenwood Mayor Carolyn McAdams in hopes that they will use the findings to better the community.
Robert Collins, president of the board of supervisors, said Thursday he was not aware of receiving any survey results.
McAdams said she appreciated that residents such as Weathers were making the effort to better the community.
As far as gun violence, she said that there has been an increased police presence and that residents in recent weeks have come together to keep an eye out for shootings and report incidents to authorities.
The mayor also said Thursday that she plans to give a copy of the survey results to Police Chief Jody Bradley.
Next, Weathers said he plans to hold voter registration drives as well as a children’s bike ride in May that would tour parks in the city.
• Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or firstname.lastname@example.org.