PINE BLUFF, Ark. — It's good news for the city, but Pastor Jesse Turner, president of the Pine Bluff Faith Community Coalition Ministerial Alliance said people shouldn't get too relaxed.
Solutions to the violence in Pine Bluff are something Turner continues to search for.
"It is necessary that as pastors and leaders, we get into the community," Turner said.
Since 1997, Turner has been in the community, helping families of homicide victims and keeping their names alive by placing crosses around town.
Turner believes this effort from pastors and people in the city is part of the solution.
"We are seeing the community settle down," Turner said. "We are seeing homicides recede [and] we are seeing students feeling more comfortable at school."
Pine Bluff police said that the last reported homicide was on September 14, 2022. In total, there were 21 homicides in Pine Bluff last year.
"It's refreshing for the community," Turner said.
Turner and Jack Robey Junior High School Principal Arnold Robinson credit the city's youth to the reduction of gun violence. Robinson said it also helps to have pastors walking the halls at school.
"We often fail to realize that what happens in our community spills over in our schools," Robinson said.
In Robinson's three years as principal, he's noticed the pastor's presence on campus is positively impacting students.
"They're not as tense," Robinson said. "They're not as violent and they're kind of tuning in more to what is going on in the classroom."
Turner doesn't want the community to become too complacent with this streak of nonviolence.
Instead, he is calling on the people who live in the city to join in with leaders, mentor kids and help shape a better community.
"If we feel like we made it and we have done what we need to do to reduce homicides, they're coming back and probably coming back faster than we had them before," Turner said.