Dozens of children charged with gun crimes in last two years

Lynchburg police, community work together to fight violence

LYNCHBURG, Va. – In the last two years, there has been a rash of violence in Lynchburg. The murder of Jordan Keyes in January 2018 is still unsolved. The suspects in that case are 13- and 15-years-old according to the most recent Lynchburg police reports.

We continue an in-depth look at kids and guns and how police and the community are working together to stop the violence.

On a summer night, the community comes together.

"It's just the thing about having a community; we're together, we're here. Just to know you have that backing, you have hope out here whether you know it or not," said Cyteria Bolden, a mother of two.

She knows violence first hand. Her family member, Lisa Henderson, was killed and her body was found in Campbell County. Bolden wants her daughter to know violence is never the answer.

"In the society we grow up in, it's always fight first, talk later and I'm just like, 'You can't do that. You need to learn to talk with your words and if there is no coming together with your words, walk away from it' because, at the end of the day, you both get to live the next day," said Bolden.

Camm is just one of many in the community putting on these events where police can interact with kids.
Camm is just one of many in the community putting on these events where police can interact with kids.

That's the same message James Camm is working to spread.

"Any time you pick up a gun, that can be a permanent decision," said Camm, who founded One Community One Voice and is a pastor.

After a streak of violence in Lynchburg, he founded the group to fight crime and promote unity in the city.

We looked through police reports involving children and guns. We got back dozens of cases.

  • A teen shooting a gun in a neighborhood
  • Two 15-year-olds wanted for robbery
  • Other teens arrested for murder

Fifteen children under the age of 18 were charged with gun crimes in the last two years in Lynchburg.

In Roanoke over the last two years, there have been nearly 60 cases of children younger than 18 having a gun. Nine of those were aggravated assault and eight were robberies.

The community is saying 'Enough'.

Camm is just one of many in the community putting on events where police can interact with kids.

It's paying off. Camm says a mom called after finding a gun in her 16-year-old's room, and he spoke with the teen.

"There was an opportunity for me to buy it, all the guys around got one, and I'm worried about my own safety.' I began to share with him about being in the wrong place and being around the wrong situations and how this could have affected his life forever," said Camm. "Who knows how many people's lives we changed by getting that one gun."

"It's hard. It's hard to hear. You don't want anything bad to happen to your community," said John Pavia, a Lynchburg police officer who works the streets. "I've definitely been seeing an uptick with younger people and weapons. I think they just want it because they think it's going to get them more respect from other people. I've heard that time and time again in interviews that it's a respect thing."

Lynchburg Police Officer John Pavia grew up in Central Virginia and now works the streets.
Lynchburg Police Officer John Pavia grew up in Central Virginia and now works the streets.

He's on the police team focusing on problem areas, and by working these areas and talking to people, it has helped with investigations.

"It only takes one good interaction for them to build that trust with you and then, later down the line when you do need something from them, they feel more comfortable with you," said Pavia.

"Every time we touch one of these children. We may be able to change their lives and if we come out here and one child's been changed, we've been successful," said Camm. "Everybody can't do exactly what I'm doing but they've got to do something because as we continue to allow it to happen, it's just going to continue to be as any disease. It just continues to spread."

Pavia says if you're concerned about your child, there are resources to help without your child getting in trouble and going to jail. He says it can stop the problem before they end up in a violent situation. You can contact police for help.

This is part of an ongoing 10 News series about kids and guns. There will be multiple stories in August about how to keep your family safe. As many police departments have told us during interviews for this series, it is not about being pro-gun or anti-gun, it is about locking up guns so kids and/or criminals don't have access to guns.

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