ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The recent violence involving youth suspects has many in Rochester searching for solutions on how to stop it.
"It's a problem of the heart,” said Clay Harris, founder of United and Healing Through Hope of Monroe County. “We have to change the hearts and the minds of the young people and their families. Together, we can stop this violence when we take a stand."
Dismayed by the recent crime, Harris and a group of pastors announced a new campaign to stop the violence.
The goal is to get 300 area churches involved in antiviolence marches and rallies on June 5.
"We have to come together and represent God, and show people how they are supposed to live to get there,” said Pastor D. Christopher Rourk, New Vision Ministries. “How God designed it from the beginning. That's where we come in. We want to see children grow up and prosper. We want to see people fellowship together, and live in peace and harmony. That's where the church comes in."
For Harris, the most important thing is that the church be there for the community.
"Are you doing OK today?” said Harris. “What do you need? If we can meet the need of the people through the church, I guarantee you, without a shadow of a doubt, 90% of this violence would cease to exist."
Meanwhile, Malik Evans, Democratic candidate for Rochester mayor, unveiled a list of policies that he would like to enact for youth development.
Evans says he is envisioning a Youth Work Program that helps teenagers find jobs, and another program called Teen Court, which allows youth to atone for misdemeanor-level crimes while also keeping their record clean.
"It's an investment that we have to make,” said Evans. “We are losing too many young people every day, and if we are going to tell them that they can't do something, you’ve got to have an opportunity, but right now we don't. We must have a comprehensive youth development strategy in order to transform our city.”
Ahmein Parson, 18, believes that if teens can find jobs, it would reduce crime involving younger suspects.
"A lot of kids want jobs,” said Parson. “A lot of kids want stuff to do, and it's best that they do stuff positive other than the negative stuff that's going on in the community."
Parson says he hopes to find his own job soon.
Councilmember Evans is poised to face off against incumbent Mayor Lovely Warren in next month's Rochester mayoral Democratic primary race.
City Hall did not immediately return a request for comment in response to Evans’ address.