WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - City of Wilmington leaders are responding to a spike in youth violence -- creating conversations and identifying opportunities to curb those numbers.
After a series of community forums with citizens, law enforcement officers, and city council members, City Manager Sterling Cheatham presented a youth violence report including a list of efforts underway and the next steps to making Wilmington a safer place.
According to the report, issues leading to youth violence in the cape fear region include racism, media bias, overloaded jails, a lack of family structure, education, and jobs.
Cheatham says moving forward, the main goal is to identify opportunities for collaboration between the police department, sheriffs office, and community leaders.
Based on the report presented to council, desired outcomes include the improvement of quality education and skills of youth, an emphasis on strengthening prenatal care and early warning, increased job opportunities for ex-felons, and a focus on community building efforts from law enforcement officials.
Cheatham says preventing youth violence is a long term challenge.
Cheatham said the problem extends beyond the city of Wilmington and the entire community should get behind efforts to stop youth violence.
City Council Member, Charlie Rivenbark says he believes the violence we see in our community now is primarily driven by gangs.
"I don't want to be negative, but many youth problems are gang driven so this crisis will continue," said Rivenbark. "We've got a crisis here. This will continue until we find a way or find a group to help us bridge this gap."
The city hopes to establish new programs at youth facilities and allocate money based on results and collaboration with community groups.
The next step is to request leadership, funding, and assistance from various agencies.
Moving forward, the city is asking for public input on strategies to prevent youth violence. Surveys are available online until April 23. A final forum to wrap up will be held on April 29 at City Hall starting at 5:30 p.m..
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