The streets of New Bedford are turning into shooting galleries and innocent people are suffering as a result.

Monday's mid-afternoon shootout on North Front Street was both shocking and unacceptable. Crime statistics and rhetoric about safe neighborhoods don't cut it anymore. Elected officials have got to do better. The public has to demand better.

A 60 year old man was shot in the neck on Monday afternoon as two gangs of thugs engaged in a mid-afternoon gun battle in the area of North Front and Nye Streets. The man was minding his own business in his apartment on Tallman Street when he became a victim of the latest act of violence. The fact that this happened around three in the afternoon on a street filled with people, including kids making their way home from school should scare the hell out of everyone. Witnesses say the shooters ran from one street to the next firing as they ran.

The time for spin and excuses are over. The people need to know that they and their kids can walk the city streets, or relax in their homes in mid-afternoon without being shot at.

Longtime City Councilor Brian Gomes is demanding a meeting of the Council's Public Safety Committee that would include representatives from law enforcement agencies at every level to come up with real solutions. No more dog and pony shows with bus tours of troubled neighborhoods that lead to no changes. Mayor Jon Mitchell and the legislative and congressional delegations need to embrace the effort and ensure the public that an action plan will be implemented to end the violence.

Political leaders must send a message far and wide that all landlords are responsible for the upkeep of their property and the tenants who live there.  A bold action plan must be drafted to retake troubled neighborhoods once and for all.  Every ordinance on the books needs to be enforced as it relates to the upkeep of these properties.  Chronic offenders should lose their properties.

Most importantly, the public needs to become engaged if this madness is going to end.  We can no longer sit idly by and let someone else do the heavy lifting.  If you see something...say something.  Take action.  Stand together.  If New Bedford is to attract young, working families and investment it must repair it's image as a violent and dangerous place.

The only way that we can eradicate this scourge from our community is to push it out.

Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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