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Cedar Rapids Police Chief Asks Community for Help Stopping Gun Violence

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - New Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman made his first public plea Thursday, asking for witnesses to come forward to help stop a spike in gun violence.

Gunfire in the city this year is already up 34 percent, with 59 confirmed reports this year compared to 44 in all of 2011. At least 13 people have been shot, including two who died from their injuries. In the past 25 shooting incidents, including four in the past week, no arrests have been made.

Jerman, who started Oct. 29, said in a statement issued by the department Thursday that he is "outraged" that more witnesses are not coming forward with information to help solve the shootings.

"I am upset by the number of reports of shots fired and disappointed that more citizens are not coming forward with information to hold these offenders accountable," Jerman said.

The bloodiest stretch of shootings happened in mid-April, when four people were shot in four days. One of them, 22-year-old Raphael Blackwell, died.

Police have made arrests in six of the shooting cases, including the Blackwell homicide. But so far no arrests have been made in connection with the shooting death of 19-year-old Latasha Roundtree, who was shot Sept. 22.

In some cases, victims have been uncooperative with investigators. Police said that was the case when two men were shot in the 2100 block of C Street SW on March 29. Investigators cited similar difficulties after a drive-by shooting on a sunny morning in July that left a car riddled with more than a dozen bullet holes.

The pace of the shootings had seemed to slow, but has picked up again this past week. Three houses had windows shot out Friday and a man was shot in the leg Sunday. More gunfire Tuesday afternoon left bullet holes in two houses and a garage in Wellington Heights.

"These acts will not be tolerated," Jerman said. "The citizens are obviously reporting the act itself, but we need more citizens to come forward with who is committing these crimes. There are individuals that know who is doing this, and I am outraged that they are not coming forward with the information."

Residents are urged to call 911 immediately when they hear gunshots, and to be ready to report the location, a description of the shooter or shooters and any vehicles involved, and the direction the people or vehicle went.

Tips can be submitted by calling the department's investigative division at (319) 286-5400 or by flagging down a patrol officer. Anonymous tips are also accepted through the Linn County Crime Stoppers, by calling 1-800-CS-CRIME (272-7463) or by texting CRIMES (274637) with 5227 in the message or subject line and the tip. Rewards are possible if the information leads to an arrest.

Jerman said one of his top priorities is to make Cedar Rapids safer.

"I encourage citizens to make that call, text that tip and help stop these shootings and hold those responsible for hurting our neighbors and damaging property," Jerman said. "I believe in community policing. Notice that "community" is the first word listed. Make no mistake; these words go together for a complete phrase. But police cannot operate without the help of the community."

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