Crime, jobs stir citizens during coffee with mayor
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/302-0949 July 15, 2014 6:12PM
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, left, listens to ideas from Janet Johnson, a retired Gary teacher at Tuesday's "Coffee with the Mayor" at McDonald's. | Carole Carlson~Sun-Times Media
If you go
Upcoming dates for Coffee with the Mayor, 8 to 9 a.m.
Aug. 5: McDonald’s,
3520 Grant St.
Aug. 12: Jonathan’s Pancake House, 6141 Melton Road
Aug. 29: Denny’s, 3150 Grant St.
Sept. 5: Charlie’s Coney Island, 2491 Broadway
Sept. 16: Coney Island,
3350 W. 5th Ave.
Updated: August 17, 2014 6:35AM
GARY — The day after the city buried a slain police officer, residents shared a cup of coffee with Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and also offered their views on crime, the need for jobs and a strong education program.
The Tuesday session at McDonald’s on 5th Avenue and Grant Street marked the first of six get-togethers in the coming months. City spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington said the program was Freeman-Wilson’s idea to connect with residents in a casual atmosphere.
The mayor rolled through McDonald’s like it was a campaign stop, shaking hands with patrons and offering hugs to others.
Retired Gary teacher Janet Johnson voiced concern about crime and the lack of jobs for young men.
“I wonder about the crimes and if they are by people who are new to the city. We have to stop this violence,” she said.
Johnson said Freeman-Wilson asked her to serve on a commission she’s considering establishing to look at the crime issue.
“People are killing each other,” Johnson said. “We need to identify the problem. ... I’ve lived in Gary all my life. We have to figure out what to do. We have to do something to upgrade our image. The city is not dead, but it’s in a coma. We’ll return.”
Isaac Preston said he volunteered to help in a community effort, too. “We have to try to get out from under this crime,” he said.
Preston said the city should start community groups in every neighborhood to watch for criminal activity. “The mayor can’t do it by herself,” he said.
“I’ve been in Gary since 1947,” Preston said. “In all, it’s 66 years, so I know the city and what can be done. Things are getting better.”
Gary’s image took a hit last week with the shooting death of police officer Jeffrey Westerfield, a fatal stabbing and a fatal shooting.
Police also found the body of a woman in an abandoned car in a wooded area in the 2000 block of East 22nd Avenue. Police said her daughter’s boyfriend, from Merrillville, attacked and stabbed her in her Crown Point home.