Community leaders address gun violence targeting Gainesville youth ahead of school year
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Several shootings have taken the lives minors over the past few months and with the school year just weeks away, community leaders are trying to fight the spike in gun violence.
In Alachua County, a mass shooting at a 15-year-old’s birthday party at a Gainesville American Legion wounded four and killed 13-year-old Christopher Scott.
Related story: Teenager shot last month at American Legion has died
With the school year quickly approaching, Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Carlee Simon said district employees will be working even harder to be a listening ear for students.
“In order to not find themselves where they want to get involved in gang related activity and a lot of it has to do with relationships and we need to work on building better relationships with our students,” Simon said.
Maliyah Godwin, 13, was also shot and killed this spring and a 12-year-old suffered from gunshot wounds in June.
Related story: Deputies are investigating a shooting that injured 12-year-old child
Gainesville Police have not confirmed that any of these shootings were gang related.
Senator Keith Perry said he’s been combating gang violence with Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones for three years and is working on the federal level to combat gang activity as more young people are killing each other.
“You think of the big cities having gang problems, but Gainesville, Florida has a gang problem,” Perry said. “Ocala, Florida has a gang problem….We had people come down from Washington on some of the gang interactions. I think that’s probably the biggest thing that we have now.”
“We have some support groups in place but we also know that we are trying to build more support and wrap around with other community members,” Simon said.
Simon also said two students who attended Westwood Middle School were shot and killed in just two months.
Senator Keith Perry said the City of Gainesville is putting programs in place to prevent young people from ending up in these deadly situations.
Related story: “If you see something, say something”; Chief Jones, Gainesville city officials address concerns of recent gun violence
“The interrupters is a program where they take people who have been in situations that are older now and they come back into the community and start a relationship with these young people and try to move them into a different track,” Perry said.
Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe said the city is working with faith based groups and community leaders to also engage with youth and Chief Jones is training with the FBI on how to react to this increase in violence.
“It’s going to take the whole community to respond to and really address this but we certainly as a police department and a city are doing everything that we can,” Poe said.
He also encouraged those who own a gun legally to take it out of your car or lock your doors because that’s how many get their hands on weapons.
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