Programs focus on youth to steer them away from violence

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Three homicides in less than twelve hours - the city of Birmingham was rocked by Wednesday's deaths.

"It's really troubling to us. I know it's troubling to a lot of people in our communities," Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper says.

None of Wednesday's victims were children or teens, but they are certainly watching.

"It's always concerning because we always want to expose young people, who are highly impressionable, the to the best possible image we can. We believe what they see is what they'll be," says Cedric Sparks.

Sparks is the Executive Director of Birmingham's Division of Youth Services and says they have different programs to meet children where they are.

"We have programming for young people flirting with the wrong side of the law. We have a reality check program because some young people believe that lifestyle is a positive one," he says.

And then there are those who are doing well, but want to be engaged.

DYS provides summer jobs, arts, and athletics programs along with those focused on health and wellness for them. But are they working?

"I would say what we are doing is not enough," said Roper.

He applauds the programs that not only the ones the city provides, but others offered by different groups.

But he feels what's needed is a laser-like focus that brings all the groups.

"We need a strategy that addresses not just policing, but mentoring and work force development, education, early childhood education, all those types things to really get the impact we need," Roper says.

Sparks says DYS also believes in the adage "It takes a village to raise a child."

He says that means supporting children at home, at school, and in the community.

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