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Richmond leaders collaborate to combat gun violence impacting youth

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 6:38 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 29, 2021 at 11:28 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA - It was a meeting of the minds Monday to develop solutions to combat crime. The Richmond School Board and City Council joined a Richmond Police official to discuss crime prevention and what they are already doing to engage youth.

When it comes to local governmental bodies, it can take time to get new initiatives up and going because that often involves meetings, debates and votes. Then there is the process of allocating funding to new programs. Richmond leaders say they can’t wait and that something has to be done now.

“We don’t want to lose another child. We lost a 9-year-old and a 14-year-old,” Mayor Levar Stoney said.

“You and I both attended Markiya Dickson’s funeral, and I thought that would be the last 9-year-old’s funeral that I would ever hear about because of gun violence or attend...We had a 3-month-old killed,” Superintendent Jason Kamras added.

Now, Richmond leaders are saying enough. The School Board and City Council joined forces Monday, trying to put aside their differences on other issues to address the one thing there’s no question that they agree on - curbing gun violence.

“These kids, when they’re talking about why they have a gun at 12 years old, that’s because they’re scared. They’re not trying to hurt anybody. They don’t want to get hurt,” said Major Spence Cochran with RPD. He says officers are going to where Richmond youth is to engage them through basketball and other resources to gain their trust. After that comes conflict resolution training, problem-solving, and life skills.

School board member Mariah White wants to see even more.

“Our children are looking for jobs, and they shouldn’t have to go to the street for quick money because that’s what it is,” White said.

Both bodies agreed to collaborate to find more solutions.

“There are just too many damn guns in our community, and the ease of access for 15, 16, 17-year-olds is unbelievable. It’s unbelievable,” Stoney said.

“As the father of a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old, I see my own boys when I see these headlines, and it’s truly devastating,” Kamras added.

Major Cochran says MLK Middle School will be used as a central location to begin some of this intervention as soon as Friday. The mayor says he wants to revisit this issue, especially when it’s time to approve a new budget early next year.

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