LYNCHBURG, Va. – Lynchburg community leaders sit down Saturday to discuss a plan to stop violence from escalating in their neighborhoods.
Last year, Lynchburg police responded to 327 cases of violent crime.
“People are afraid to sit outside even and that is ridiculous,” Mary Hutcherson, a co-chair of Cradle Outreach Ministry, said.
That’s why police, religious and city leaders are discussing ways to save troubled youth.
16-year-old Timothy Jones said teens are battling depression and are turning to gangs to feel loved.
He wants to see more basketball programs, mentorship and mental health resources readily available.
“Most of them don’t got that father figure to tell you can’t do that and you can’t do this,” Jones said.
Dr. Treney Tweedy, with Lynchburg Community Action Group, said she wants to see more churches open their doors.
“It doesn’t always have to be the city budget that keeps the doors open,” she said.
CRADLE OUTreach Ministry leaders said they are more than ready to step up.
“Kids are not only our future but our present,” Micky Ferguson, a co-chair of the ministry, said. “We need to bring them on board so they can have a voice at the table.”
Lynchburg Mayor MaryJane Dolan said it’s important to let the youth know “they are of value at a very young age so that they know there are other choices for them other than being on the street.”
Police Chief Ryan Zuidema said the community needs to focus on prevention rather than intervention.
“It’s not just about crime,” Zuidema said. “There’s issues with poverty, mental health and things for kids to do at a young age.”