WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Children and the resources available to them were the focus for the final community conversation on gang violence in the City of Wilmington.
A panel of four, ranging from a former gang member to a teen currently involved in a mentoring program, spoke about what they're seeing in the community and what could be improved.
Tyrone Bragg, who grew up in Wilmington, told the crowd of more than 100 people, that the current situation in the city is not what he remembers.
"I'd been to every rec center when we had rec centers," he said. "Now, we're left to one rec center on one side of the city."
The local entrepreneur was not the only one to call out budget cuts that have reduced community outreach efforts in the City of Wilmington.
Kaleem Griffin, 10, said he would enjoy more programs like the MLK Center if they were offered.
"This is like mostly the only positive place you can come to do different things," Griffin said.
Kevin Spears, 13, said he'd like to see more programs too. The teenager said there is not much to do when school's out, so most of his friends just hang around outside.
"When you're hanging outside you're thinking about having fun," he said. "But at the same time you're thinking about being safe. What if something happens?"
Spears said he never associated gangs with Wilmington until recently.
"Who thought it would be this violent?" he asked.
Leaders in the City of Wilmington have approved hundreds of thousands of dollars for the police department since last summer to combat gang violence.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said Tuesday night that it's time for city council to consider increasing the money to keep children from joining gangs in the first place.
"What we heard tonight was ‘help us'," the mayor explained. "We have to put those programs back into place because the long run because it's good medicine for everybody."
But that medicine won't take effect immediately. Months after the first public forum on gang violence, city leaders will wait for recommendations from staff on what should be done next.
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