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'It has to come to a head at some point': Community leaders express concern over teen violence

In just a couple days, three teenagers were charged in two separate homicide cases. Activists say while the problem isn't new, it's becoming more prevalent.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After seeing three Louisville teenagers charged with murder in just a couple days, concerned community leaders say early intervention in kids' lives is more important now than ever.

On Monday, Louisville Metro Police (LMPD) arrested two 16-year-old suspects they've accused of shooting and killing a 15-year-old in Nov. 2021. Then on Tuesday, they charged a 17-year-old with the murder of a 19-year-old in late April.

In both cases, young people were involved on each side.

Activists say while the problem isn't new, they believe it is becoming more prevalent.

"They feel like nothing's going to happen to them, there [are] no repercussions. It has to come to a head at some point," said Neal Robertson, president at the West Louisville Urban Coalition. "But we have to do our job as adults. They're not getting the parental guidance that they're needing."

With the Kentucky primaries less than a week away, Robertson said issues affecting kids aren't being discussed enough, especially with regard to teen violence.

Robertson, who has worked on anti-violence plans in the past, said he's started a new initiative called "The Positive Paradigm for Success," which will organize trips for African-American boys and teenagers to participate in community activities outside of their everyday environment. We're told this could range from museum tours to baseball games. 

We're told the focus is also to provide mentors and guidance for young kids.

Meanwhile, activist Brian Spencer is working to make an impact as the new Program Director at the Newburg Boys and Girls Club. He said as he hears about more teens involved in gun violence, it further reveals the need to intervene.

"There are a lot of reasons [for the issues]. One being mental health, one being not being able to control your emotions, and one being resources and opportunities these kids don't see," he said.

Spencer, who oversees nearly 120 young kids every day, said he's about changing the mindsets of the youth and starting early. 

But he said a big part of the solution lies in the hands of city leadership, and he's encouraging the community to take advantage of opportunities to vote in the coming days. He wants topics like mental health and youth centers to be top of mind.

According to LMPD data, homicides are trending higher so far in 2022 compared to this point in 2021: 59 compared to 53. The numbers show nearly 40% of homicide victims so far this year are 24 years old or younger.

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