Group says youth violence is public health issue

Posted at 7:37 PM, May 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-24 19:37:41-04

An international coalition is on the move in Cleveland this week to try and help make our city streets safer.

The group 'Cure Violence' said youth violence is such an epidemic it's now a public health issue impacting all of us.

On Tuesday, we hit the streets to talk to teens dealing with danger in our neighborhoods first hand.

When groups like ‘Cure Violence’ come to town, we often see a lot of adults come to the table to try and spark change, but now more than ever, the Boys and Girls Club realized the best solution to saving lives may lie with teens themselves.

Clinton White could have been a statistic.

"He pointed the gun at me and said, ‘I'm going to ask you one more time, do you have any money?’ (I) Said no, he shot the gun at me and missed," said White. "Just traumatized after that, didn't want to do nothing else."

The Cleveland teen is one of many in the city currently working with the Boys and Girls Club to tackle violence once and for all.

"Now-a-days, kids are not fighting or anything, they're just killing each other," said Richard Starr, Boys and Girls Club.

As adults plug away to try and stop people from pulling the trigger, high school students like Daron Haynes said just a few steps could be the solution.

"Walk away, just leave it alone,” said Haynes. “It ain't always about fighting and stuff."

It's one option the Boys and Girls Club encourages. The other tool teens learn about is using their voice. Kiara Francis helped a friend stop trouble in its tracks.

"I talked her down and then I had her go talk to the person, say what had happened and then they made up," Francis said.

Richard Starr ran the King Kennedy Club on East 59th Street.

"One of my kids getting shot. I was like, wow, how are you getting shot? He was just leaving the store," said Starr.

Starr said that uptick in violence in his neighborhood has prompted him to host more teen-led panels.

Young Clevelanders like Tiy’yonna Scott like the idea of empowering more young people to find solutions instead of adults.      
“I feel like sometimes they don't actually listen to us,” said Scott. “Sometimes it's just like they talk about it but don't take action on it."

The bottom-line on breaking the violence these teens say is having more opportunities at places like the Boys and Girls Club.

"You can stay out of violence if you play sports and stuff," Haynes said.

"Open up a lot more youth programs to help get us up off the streets," said White.

Next week, students will take part in an anti-violence panel at the King Kennedy Boys and Girls Club.

It's an event the site's co-director says they've rarely held in the past, but now these conversations are happening weekly as the violence increases.