Community programs work to stop violence
Community members say they are outraged by the recent violence. They say it seems like the victims and perpetrators are getting younger and younger. That's why they're taking matters into their own hands by organizing a number of programs for youth in the city. Our Katie Gibas spoke with community organizers about their efforts to stop the violence.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Early Tuesday morning, Syracuse resident Eddie Mitchell got an all too familiar phone call. Around 1 a.m., his 18-year-old cousin, Makliek Starling, was shot dead on Syracuse's Southside.
"He's a kid. He was a young kid. He didn't get to live his life to his full potential. I lost a lot of family to the streets and the violence, the gun violence. It hurts," said Eddie Mitchell, Team A.N.G.E.L. Founder.
This is the second teenager killed in Syracuse so far this year.
"It's just mass chaos with these young men just imitating what they see from past people that they looked up," said Jaheem Green, the Intelligent Young Minds Intervention/Prevention Specialist.
That's why the Southwest Community Center has a number of programs aimed at breaking the cycle of violence. Team A.N.G.E.L. is a support group for teens affected by violence in their community. Intelligent Young Minds helps provide teens with positive alternatives to drugs and violence. And Family First helps identify aggressive behaviors and teaches families how to deal with them before it's too late.
"If we bring them under this roof, it's very important. They're out of the way, for one. That's the most important thing. We can work on everything else after that," said Karen Loftin, a Southwest Community Stakeholder.
Mitchell added, "There's not a lot of things for the teenagers to do. Many people don't want teenagers in their youth centers or programs, so it's hard to give the kids something to do. When they don't have anything to do, they're going to go out in the streets. If you have more activities and trips for them to do, then they'll be more successful."
But experts agree it will take a cultural shift.
"They're desensitized. A lot of students are just turning a blind eye to what's happening in front of their steps," said Green.
Arnett Haygood-El, the Family First Program Director, added, "We need to start earlier, starting not with teens who are already affected by violence but talk to youth, kindergartners, first graders who haven't come into that sphere yet."
But the programs at the Southwest Community Center can only go so far. Those involved with the programs say they need to expand antiviolence initiatives, and that requires both funding and manpower, both of which have been a challenge.
"It's starting to get really hard to cater to all the needs of the students who are coming in here who are affected due to violence and due to the negative violence that's happening outside these walls," said Green.
And community organizers say getting the funding for programs to educate children early about violence prevention will be key to stopping the cycle.
Those at the Southwest Community Center are applying for a number of grants to support programming and additional security.