"Heal the City" anti-violence meeting focuses on youth - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

"Heal the City" anti-violence meeting focuses on youth

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Savannah Youth Council hosted a town hall meeting Monday night to encourage a greater focus on younger people in Savannah.

Some in the community believe this group is at the root of Savannah’s violent crime.

Monday night’s meeting seemed to be less about “community involvement” and more about who is involved.

Organizers said young people are often caught up in and affected by the violent crime in Savannah, but rarely are they actually part of the conversation to reach a solution.

"These young people do in fact exist, and they do have a voice, and they do themselves care about their communities. We're just allowing them a platform to be able to engage people they normally wouldn't be able to engage and have a conversation about how can we curb these acts and stop the violence in our community,” said Beverlee Trotter, executive director of Savannah Youth City, Inc.

One of the biggest influences on young people? Other young people.

"Because they feel like we relate more, we're around the same age category, we are into the same things. So they like 'Yeah, we going to go chill with them' or 'We going to go see what they're doing.' And when we hit them with the positive, they're thinking like, 'Whoa,'" said Justin Gaskins, active in the community.

A number of local officials attended, including Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson. Monday’s events included discussion with a panel as well as a question-and-answer session with young people in the audience. While the efforts of recent anti-violence rallies were applauded, others said it's going to take more than that to reach a solution.

"It has to be paired with a good faith initiative, it has to be paired with some type of program, some type of job skills classes, and some type of recreational things that will be a vehicle for children to not be on the streets,” said Raquim Salahuddin, panelist.

And the message to parents: communicate with your kids and create an environment where they want to share with you.

The event's organizer acknowledged there is no singular answer to Savannah's crime problem, but the consensus Monday was that we'll never get close to a solution without inviting young people to the table and listening to their input.

"They going off what's cool, what's popular. If we can get stop the violence to be popular, that's what they're going to come to, because it's a trend and that's what they want. They just want to be a part of something, and that’s something positive,” said Gaskins.

Organizers also provided a reminder of what awaits some young people if they choose the wrong crowd, by reading the names of those killed in violent crime over the last 20-months in Savannah.

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