Youth Speak Out: Teens Talk Gangs and Violence

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A group of teenagers are the suspects in a February drive-by shooting, one of 16 gang related crimes in Tallahassee in the last 18 months involving juveniles and firearms. It’s a cause for concern amongst residents attending the "Youth Speak Out" forum at the Walker Ford Community Center Wednesday.

"How can I look at someone and tell if they are a gang member, and what we talked about in our meeting last week; is there is no one indicator? There is no one identifier," said OFC Derrick Friend of the Tallahassee Police Department.

Friend was a panelist speaking to residents at the event.

One clear reality is many of the people involved are teenagers and some are even younger.

"Now these are the ones we are dealing with in the Leon County Jail and the detention centers. This is real stuff. Young people this is real," said Lawrence Chatman with the Board of Directors for Walker Ford.

"What we are witnessing is that there are a lot of homes, the families are not intact, either the mother missing or the father missing. As a result of that young people are looking to other sources to get direction, so when they don't have their families functioning as the family should be, they have to seek directions. They have to seek someone to support them. They have to seek someone to belong to, so they seek gangs," added Vera McIntyre of Black Families in America and panelist at the event.

These types of incidents are striking fear in residents, especially teens. Many are confronted by gang activities at school and in their neighborhoods.

"My sisters they love to play outside but these are older guys, and I get concerned when they're outside and I'm inside trying to look through the windows. And sometimes I just tell them to come inside because I'm so afraid for them," added Niykeal Westberry, a junior at Leon High School.

The panelists said they are trying to talk to young adults to see how they can combat the rise of gangs in Tallahassee. The next forum is April 5 at City Hall.