By Michael Hill
In the middle of a funeral for a young murder victim in April at a full to capacity Galilee Baptist Church — bang, bang, bang.
“It was mass chaos, mass confusion,” said Deacon Stacy Fannin.
“It was like rapid fire — bap bap bap bap bap bap. It stopped than it happened again,” said Mark Parrish.
Parishioners hit the floor and ran for the doors. One person was hit in the leg outside the church. Five guns recovered in and around the church in a city reeling from another soaring murder rate.
“Our door’s open to anybody, any race, creed, or color. We help kids, anybody. I mean food, shelter, clothing, we’re here for them. That’s why I don’t understand, especially during a time of a service. The man is already dead. What more can you do to him? What more? Have respect for the family,” Fannin said.
Trenton so far has 20 murders this year. It’s on pace to have as many as it had last year. That and the incident at Galilee Baptist Church really caught the attention of policy makers.
“We have to look at the shootings as potential future homicides,” said First Assistant Prosecutor Angelo Onofri.
Just this month, a suppression task force made up of law enforcers from Mercer County hit the streets to quickly solve shootings and murders.
“Our success rate has been terrific with that including solving one homicide within six hours,” Onofri said.
“Should see those numbers decrease the second half of the year,” said Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph J. Bocchini Jr.
Last year, law enforcers tried to lower the murder rate here but the results of this year teaches them to trace the origins of the guns and to try to reach Trentonians through social services, finding out what they need to succeed.
“These issues can’t be resolved simply by making arrests,” said Onofrio. “Some are taking advantage of it, others are walking away from it.”
Divine Allah of the Trenton Anti-Violence Coalition has doubts.
“How do you expect the people who create the problem in a real way to solve the problem?” Allah asked.
But the members of Galilee Baptist say give it a chance.
“So far that is helping the young men and young ladies and they do want to change,” Fannin said.
“If there’s anything that can help save our children, our babies, to save our streets and for us to be able to walk the streets again and be safe, I’m all for it,” said Parrish.
The stakeholders here think they’re on the right path to lower the murder rate. Some believe those efforts do have a prayer to succeed.