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'It's very disheartening': Cleveland violence intervention groups report rise in youth violence

9 incidents involving youth in March
Posted at 6:50 AM, Mar 31, 2022

CLEVELAND — News 5 has reported a lot lately on teen violence across Northeast Ohio and Myesha Watkins has a front row seat to it.

“When you think of young people in a city where we have so many resources and so many programs that are losing their lives or losing parts of their lives being a victim it is very disheartening," said Watkins.

Watkins’ organization Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance sends violence interrupters to scenes daily to comfort the family members and divert and stop retaliation.

Watkins said a lot of calls that her organization has responded to lately involve the youth.

“The victims and the perpetrators are peers, they are around the same age and have access to firearms,” said Watkins. “I think that speaks to a greater call from the city."

Based on data that News 5 compiled, Cleveland police have responded to violent crimes involving a victim 18 or younger at least nine times this month including an incident at Holy Name Elementary on March 10 when a 13-year-old girl was stabbed.

Youth gun violence is an issue outside of Cleveland also, from a 7-year-old hit by a stray bullet in Garfield heights on March 19 to a 14-year-old shot in the middle of the day on a Cleveland Heights basketball court on March 22.

Watkins made it clear that youth violence is happening everywhere, so everyone should be involved, not just Cleveland groups.

“We need to create something that includes the suburbs to work with us. We cannot be siloed in our approach to end community violence because young people are so transient,” said Watkins. “The problems are going from one neighborhood to the other. If we don't work together to address violence, then we’re going to lose more lives."

Romeo Barnes with Youth and Unity is also in the streets addressing the violence before it happens with things like youth groups, community clean-ups and donation events.

Barnes agreed that all hands are needed on deck.

“We need everyone to be able to get a different concept from different people,” said Barnes. “We all have different mindsets and different backgrounds, I think it’s important to incorporate that with the youth."

Barnes added that when youth are involved in violence, it is a loss on both sides.

“We are losing our youth to violence and then if not violence then we are losing them to the system,” said Barnes. “It’s very important from not just organizations like ourselves but from parents at home, teachers, police, we need the village that we talk about.”

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