OMAHA (KPTM)- The youth of Omaha could make a difference in helping decrease violence. City leaders say this could be done by mentoring young people and encouraging them to stay off the streets.
"I actually believe that the key to prevention is going to be intervention first," said youth mentor Terry Liggins.
Intervention is exactly what the city trying is to accomplish. City leaders say more people joining neighborhood associations, neighborhood crime watch groups and church involvement have helped in an effort to implement the illegal gun task force.
"We have seen dramatic measurable reductions in that particular neighborhood. Now how do you magnify it, multiply it, mobilize more people. And that's really the push in 2013," said Willie Barney, director of the Empowerment Network.
One way city leaders hope to get that push started—mentoring the youth.
"Young people gravitate towards positivity. Nobody wants negative things in their life. But I think young people, especially, crave positive things. And when they can have a person in their life that provides that positive reinforcement, they're naturally going to gravitate towards that," said Rusty Kilpatrick, a Big Brother of the Big Brother and Big Sisters
Kilpatrick knows all about that positive reinforcement. He's a big brother to J.D. in the program. They're both products of the north Omaha community that would like to see change.
"People that turn to violence and turn to gangs do that because they feel that they can trust people. It's about trust, it's about loyalty and if you don't have loyalty and trust in your life then, like positivity, you're going to gravitate towards that," said Kilpatrick.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands says about 150 children are still looking for mentors. The program is in need of more males to become mentors. Jim Frederick, of the Midlands program says it's harder to recruit men to volunteer.
"The reality is that until people get involved hands on in the community, particularly with young people, you'll continue to see the same things," said Kilpatrick.
"One thing you definitely want to see is results. You can come up with a plan, you can design it, but you know, it's really going to come down to implementation and is it really going to work," said Liggins.
That implementation starts with the youth—keeping them in positive environments to continue the positive change in troubled neighborhoods.
Log onto the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands web site to find out more on how to volunteer. Or contact the office at 402-505-3075.
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