Seeking a solution in Chester

The talking continues in Chester.

Unfortunately, so does the gunfire.

Many residents determined to end the random street violence and gunfire that is becoming a part of their everyday lives spent much of yesterday huddling in Chester City Hall seeking solutions.

But just after 9 p.m. last night gunfire rang out again. This time it was the Martin Luther King homes. A young man was fatally shot at least twice, including one in the neck. At least one high-profile resident, the Rev. William 'Rocky' Brown III has had enough.

He went on Facebook last night to advocate for putting the city back on lockdown, a tactic used by former Mayor Wendell Butler several years ago when the city was in the grips of an unprecedented spate of fatal shootings.

It's a move that does not sit well with current Mayor John Linder and police Commissioner Joe Bail. They note it's not really a solution. Clearly, Brown does not agree.

"It's time to put the city on lockdown," Brown posted on Facebook last night. "We are and have been in a state of emergency. "Let's call it like it is. The people are not safe. Mr. Mayor, please call a state of emergency and bring the state troopers in now. Too many deaths. We need more than a rally, we need state and federal support like last year. Call it now please. How many more must die?" He's not the only one who feels that way.

Yesterday I had a heart-breaking phone call from a woman who had just read my Monday print column, which asked the simple question, "Is Chester safe?"

The resounding response I heard all day yesterday - despite the belief of Linder and Bail - is that it is not.

The woman, who lives on Lamokin Street, said gunfire can be heard on her street every night. Specifically, she said she was woken up Sunday night by gunshots at 9:25 p.m. And this comes after she had a window and mirror in her home broken by stray bullets. Her car also was damaged by a round fired on Chester's streets.

She said she has lived on Lamokin for 35 years, and she's never seen it this bad.

"People need to wake up and realize that we are prisoners in our own homes," she told me.

Another woman who lives on West Ninth Street said her street also had encountered gunshots the night before. "I'm afraid to death to live here," the 73-year-old confided.

Several people posted comments on my column and recent blogs on the question.

Not one challenged my belief that the city is not nearly as safe as city officials portray it to be.

"Absolutely not," is the way one person responded to my "Is Chester Safe?" question. "Born & raised all my life in Chester and now I won't even walk two blocks to the nearest store with my children. It's happening morning, noon & night. Summer, spring, fall & winter. It has nothing to do with warmer weather approaching. My 7-year-old begged me one day not to stop at a nearby store because of a murder that happened a few months back in front of the store. I had a shirt made for the city council meeting last week. 19 family members, close friends & classmates is number of people on my R.I.P. shirt. Smh... Our children should not have to live in fear! No, it is not safe."

It was a common thread among those who responded. As was this. Chester was not always this way. Many residents mourn what the city has turned into and long for a return to what was.

"I am also a lifelong resident of Chester," one person wrote. "I grew up in a wonderful environment; loved my childhood days. I now have to look for another place to live because of the unstable neighborhoods. I lost my husband about four years ago, and my family is very concerned for my safety. My house is perfect for me now, but I’ll be looking for another home, which will cost a considerable amount more. So, how sad is that! My feeling is, somehow, find out where the guns are coming from. No guns, no shooting!

"When I was growing up, there wasn’t any gun violence! Also, the government in Chester needs to let these criminals know that there will be no tolerance for law-breakers! Set up check points to see who is coming in and out of the city (license plates. On weekends, I notice some out-of-state plates. Curfew again in the city for the summer would be a good thing also. Good luck to all in Chester, I feel for you!"

Another person urged a bigger police presence in the city, even if it means bringing in officers from outside the city.

We are planning to focus on the city in our Wednesday night live-stream broadcast, "Live From the Newsroom."

I am hoping to have Brown, city officials, as well as some city residents on to talk about the situation in Chester and what can be done about it. If you'd like to join us, email me at

For now, please keep your calls, Facebook posts and emails coming. We also are planning a story for Sunday on what it's like to life in some of Chester's neighborhoods. If you'd like to speak to a reporter, call me at 610-622-8818, or email me at