CLEVELAND — The Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio are urging local leaders to work on a comprehensive plan for better community outreach to curb growing inner-city teen violence.
Jeff Scott, President of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio, said he is heartbroken over two shootings that claimed the lives of 15-year-old Anthony Hughes Jr. and 13-year-old Ja-mari Jones over the past week.
Police reported Hughes Jr. had just left a Boys and Girls Club location when he was shot by someone on Dec. 9 near the intersection of East 55th Street and Scovill Avenue.
Scott said the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio are now working with the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance on a plan to better protect teens coming and going from its 13 locations citywide.
“We’ve had five of our kids killed by gun violence in the last eight months," Scott said. "Historically for the Boys and Girls Club, that wouldn’t happen in a five-year period."
"If there is ever a moment in time to pick your head up and look around and say what else can we be doing because clearly, we’re not doing enough.”
“How do we 10-times it, how do we 20-times it, how do we come together to really start making sustainable change on behalf of our kids.”
“It has to be programmatic, it isn’t just money, it isn’t a building, it isn’t laptops and hot spots and gear. It’s about knowing our kids on a one-on-one basis and investing the time and resources to mentor them and inspire them."
Ken Wood, Director of Communication with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio, agreed more community teen outreach is needed.
"The hurt that we have right now can be transformed into action," Wood said.
“We all have a duty to get to know that kid, and to get to know that kid has needs and one of those primary needs is to be safe.”
“These are real people, they’re kids, these are not statistics and they’re not things that you read about that happened on the other side of town.”
Cleveland Councilman Blaine Griffin, who is also Chairman of the Cleveland Safety Committee, said he will now be looking for new ways to activate trauma coaches, who are helping teens at city recreation centers and city schools.
“It takes a lot more than policing to deal with this," Griffin said.
“We want to see how we can have mobile trauma teams that can actually go to a lot of these different organizations and try and help them. The school district has a great team, we need to see if they can come outside of the schools.”
“It really rips my heart apart when we have to watch these young people die.”
Cleveland police have not made any arrests in both cases and are asking anyone with information to please contact the Cleveland Police Detective Bureau.