Norcross city manager talks gun violence, local response

Rudolph Smith

Rudolph Smith

Norcross’ Rudolph Smith joined a national panel of city managers Tuesday to discuss mass gun violence and local government’s response in its immediate aftermath.

Joining representatives from tragedy-stricken cities like Aurora, Colo., and Oak Creek, Wisc., Smith’s inclusion in the discussion was predicated on the February 2012 shooting at the Su Jung Health Sauna, where Jeong Soo Paek killed his two sisters, their husbands and himself. A little over a week removed from Gwinnett’s latest multiple shooting — a triple homicide near Snellville — he stressed the need to understand diversity and work with it accordingly.

“You need to know your community,” Smith said during Tuesday’s conference call, “and when you look at the demographics, (know) what you need to do to communicate with the diverse community that you have.”

Smith said that, in the wake of the Norcross spa shooting, city officials had to work with interpreters and other members of the local Korean community in order to get accurate information to family members, friends and other residents.

Norcross, like Gwinnett, is a majority-minority area. Its population about 40 percent Hispanic, 20 percent black and 13 percent Asian.

Smith also emphasized the importance of a city being proactive with its residents.

“I think we need to empower our communities to be vigilant,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that happen that the police can’t see … I think we’ve got to empower people.”

Among others to offer their advice Tuesday was Skip Noe, the city manager of Aurora, Colo., where James Holmes killed 12 and injured 70 during an assault at a movie theater last July.

“We tried to focus on keeping the victims first, and making sure we communicated with them and worked with them in a way where they felt comfortable in what we did,” Noe said during the call, organized by the International City/County Management Association.

Daniel Singer, city manager in Goleta, Calif., also spoke. In 2006, a local woman shot and killed six individuals at a U.S. Postal Service mail sorting plant there. Parallels were drawn between that incident and last week’s shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.

“I’m not sure that there’s any way to prevent this,” Singer said. “Any time there’s an interest in putting up some kind of level of security for the public’s sake, somebody will find a way to get around it … It’s about our responsiveness to our communities.”