On Saturday morning 60 young people from across the region met with public officials and law enforcement representatives to discuss ways to curb youth violence.
The event was put together by the St. Louis Regional Youth Violence Prevention Task Force, a collaborative effort between more than 100 youth advocate and program providers in conjunction with the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, East St. Louis and University City.
Thomas Michael, an 18-year-old student at St. Louis Community College, attended the meeting.
Michael said the quickest way to prevent youth violence across the region is to help young people find jobs.
“It gets the kids off the street, it gives them something to do after school,” Michael said. "By the time the job’s over with it’s time to go home and get some sleep before you go to school in the morning. So, you don’t have time to be on the streets, playing with drugs, none of that.”
St. Louis City Mayor Francis Slay spoke at the event and said he’s been working with business owners to create a summer jobs program that would provide employment for 500 youth in the city of St. Louis.
But ultimately, he said, the root causes of youth violence are complicated and require a regional effort.
“We’ve been working on a lot of different components to get kids ready for life,” Slay said. “We knew to really do it effectively we had to take a more aggressive, collaborative regional approach.”
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley agreed and said the next step for the task force is to foster greater collaboration between groups and agencies aimed at preventing youth violence.
“One provider can’t do it by themselves,” Dooley said. “There has to be collaboration, there has to be cooperation. The things we talked about this morning go beyond jurisdictional lines. We’re in this together. When people leave this community they don’t say I’m from Northwood, or Town and County or East St. Louis, they just say St. Louis.”