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Teen Task Force Voices Violence Concerns

ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Local teens spoke out on youth violence over the weekend. Adults listened as the St. Louis Regional Youth Violence Prevention Task Force convened.

These kids could have been anywhere on a Saturday morning. But they came to Saint Louis University to tell grown-ups they are tired of looking over their shoulders all across the metro area.

“You have to watch your surroundings, because you don`t know what’s going to happen,” 18-year-old Dion Latimore explained. She joined the task force along with other members of the Wyman Center Outreach Program.

Violence is stealing childhoods on both sides of the Mississippi.

“I had a nephew, 19, gunned down in front of his little sisters and his brothers and the community,” said Francella Jackson, of the East St. Louis Police Department. “When you go through something like that, you have to get involved.”

So, the adults encouraged.

“You don’t have to come from a background of privilege to be successful in America and the St. Louis Region,” said Charlie Dooley, the first African-American St. Louis County Executive.

The adults also offered solutions.

“We know that summer jobs help kids in school, put some money in their pockets, build self-esteem, keeps them off the streets,” said St. Louis City Mayor Francis Slay, who is spearheading the task force.

Others looked for ways to help kids keep those jobs.

“If jobs open up in Fenton, and we have the people for those jobs in Wellston and University City,” asked University City Mayor Shelley Welsch. “How can we easily, and cheaply, and effectively get people from our part of the city to another part of the county?”

St. Louis City Police Chief Sam Dotson had a surprising approach of his own.

“As a society, we have to make an investment to a whole bunch of different areas,” he explained. “Law-enforcement is probably the one that I would pick least, because I would like to do these investments over here.”

Behind closed doors, the teens offered many suggestions and one request.

“Just focus on how we can stop violence and robberies,” Dion said. “And just focus on how we can stop those things from happening in our community today.”

The task force is planning more meetings and is looking for more kids. For more information, click here.

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