Nationally, homicide is the second leading cause of death for teens, with one exception: Homicide is the leading cause of death among black teens.
In 2008, the Franklin County homicide rate in the 15 to 24 age group was double the Ohio rate.
“Legislation in Ohio has tended to support more handgun ownership and more firearm carrying rather than less. Thus it may be up to city and local leaders (civic or church leaders) to develop interventions to reverse this trend. For example, the city has an initiative to combat truancy. It is well known that keeping teens in school keeps them safer. Less than 1 percent of homicides among children occur on or around school property.”
Jonathan I. Groner, MD, is interim chief, department of pediatric surgery, and trauma medical director at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and professor of clinical surgery at The OSU College of Medicine.
Derrick Russell is determined to be a positive force and help kids stay out of gangs.
Since sharing his story in the 2008 Full Potential report, Derrick has been busy spreading an anti-gang message. He also partners with community groups to implement safety programs, and organize little league football and cheerleading teams.
But his most rewarding work is one-on-one with young people in the Weinland Park and Linden communities. Not all kids in these communities are at high-risk for gang involvement. But when there is a strong negative influence in the community, it’s a focal point that still may draw them to it.
By the same token, “when young people see you doing positive things for the community, they are more likely to approach you,” says Derrick. “That’s your chance to connect with them and be a mentor.”
Jumane Little is one young man Derrick has been mentoring. He involved Jumane in football and helped him get summer employment doing cleanup work in the community. These activities help Jumane feel good about himself and about being part of the community – keys to making gang life less attractive.
“Gang violence has been on the upswing in the past two years, likely due to the economy and lack of jobs. Young people join gangs to gain a sense of place and belonging. We need to give them more positive outlets. There’s a serious gang problem along Livingston Avenue south of I-70, and we would like to see more programs that give young people something positive to do and be more involved in the community. Driving Park Recreation Center is an existing city resource that could be a focal point for sports and other healthy activities.”
Bryan Boatright is vice president of the Livingston Avenue Area Commission and president of the Old Oaks Civic Association.