Milwaukee teens drive community discussion on gun violence & reckless driving

NOW: Milwaukee teens drive community discussion on gun violence & reckless driving

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Dozens of Milwaukee teens want to help address gun violence and reckless driving issues they say are impacting their lives on a nearly constant basis.

The teens hosted a town hall discussion Friday, July 29 that was aimed at connecting them with city, county and state officials to find solutions.

For the past several months the teens studied reckless driving and gun violence, and researched trends and analyzed solutions.

Nearly every teen shared their own personal stories, like gun shots on their block, family members involved in a crash and personal loss.

Teen moderator Nicole Hayes said, "I am young. But I do see a lot."

And the teens feel a lot. Joshua Lyons was among the dozen teens who shared deeply personal stories Friday.

Joshua said, "The car that was shooting a block away comes to our neighborhood and starts shooting."

And they explained why they think their peers are resorting to crime that impacts the community.

Hayes said, "Some people just don't understand what they're doing. They really see it as a personal matter, and they don't think it can impact everyone around them."

For the past several months, teens at the Center for Family Preservation studied reckless driving and gun violence, and they met with people affected by both.

But the issues don't affect just teens. The town hall discussion also included Police Chief Jeffrey Norman, who said, "I'm a resident. I see the driving. I'm afraid for my family. I'm afraid for my wife."

Chief Norman added, "This is a shared responsibility of understanding, you can't always act like it's somebody else and not you."

Shakita LaGrant-McClain, the director of Milwaukee County's Department of Health and Human Services, said the responsibility is on everyone to improve the situation.

Pointing around the room, she said, "And if I'm not it, I tag you. And if you're not it, you tag him. That's right, right."

Community member Jerel Ballard said, "I graduated in 2013. And since then, I can say that I know at least three of my classmates have lost their lives because of gun violence. And one of them lost a baby because she was pregnant at the time when she was shot."

Latrece Hughes is a victim of reckless driving. She recalled when she was hit: "Two blocks from my house, both my mom and I were t-boned by a stolen jeep."

Many teens talked about wanting to help change behavior and how people react to stress.

Teen Rena Ellis said while some people may go for a walk to clear their minds, too many of her peers turn elsewhere.

"These kids aren't doing a midnight stroll, they're doing daytime strolls and they want to press the gas as hard as they feel the pressure pushing on them."

But the discussion did not just focus on the problems. Teen Jaivion Simpson said, "We're coming together and getting youth together to focus on these problems and see what we can do to change."

The teens want to take action and reach their peers throughout the city.

Joshua said, "I'm also looking forward because I know there are groups of kids like us that will bring change, that will bring hope to this city."

Friday's discussion lasted two hours, and Joshua said while it went well, he wishes they had even more time to keep exploring their ideas to make Milwaukee safer.

Moderator Robert Kelly said, "What legacy do you want to have? Do you want the legacy of letting a trigger and keys control you? Or getting the help and change that you need to help better yourself and change the community."

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