Organizers are now looking to ensure follow-through from case managers and law enforcement.
With Erie's first "call-in" complete, the organizers of the anti-violence program are now looking to what will follow.
The foundation of the next steps were laid at a dinner after Wednesday night's call-in, said Amy Eisert, director of the Mercyhurst University Civic Institute. It provides research and data analysis for Unified Erie, the anti-violence initiative behind the call-ins and other efforts to reduce youth violence.
Case managers from the Erie County Re-Entry Services and Support Alliance attended the dinner with call-in participants and will follow up as soon as Thursday to offer services and guidance, Eisert said.
"It’s not effective or efficient just to hand somebody a phone number and say, 'This is where you can get help,'" she said. "We want people that’ll be on their elbow the entire process, in them getting whatever resources that they need to break away from that criminal lifestyle."
The case managers, including call-in coordinator Jacquie Barney-Collins, will work with interested call-in participants to connect them with services that could allow them to change the course of their lives, such as help with job applications or accessing educational opportunities.
Eisert said she anticipates several call-ins will be held per year, but no timeline yet exists for future events.
She said it's hoped that participants in the call-in will return to their neighborhoods and spread the message they heard from organizers and speakers.
The Unified Erie initiative also calls for law enforcement to focus intensely on those participants who do not accept services and continue committing crimes.
"Those individuals that leave here tonight that engage in violence will be the ones that get their full attention at all levels (of law enforcement)," Eisert said Wednesday. "All warnings are over."
Erie Police Chief Donald Dacus, who had a speaking role at Wednesday's call-in, said police will use tools including sheriff's warrants, costs warrants, probation violations and other strategies to deal with participants who continue committing crimes.
"Future acts of violence will draw our attention," he said. "We will do whatever it takes legally to put ourselves between these people and the community to keep the community safe."
Eisert said law enforcement at the city, county and federal level are working in an "unprecedented level of partnership" to follow through on the legal consequences for participants who continue leading a criminal lifestyle.
Dacus said police are serving as a support element to the U.S. attorney's office, which has helped lead the Unified Erie effort.
"Our role as law enforcement does not change," he said. "We still will pursue the most violent offenders in this city and the ones that are committing crime. The only way to get off our radar is to stop committing violence."
Madeleine O'Neill can be reached at 870-1728 or by email. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNoneill.