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Lancaster NAACP invites community to aid in fight against local youth crime

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By Reece Murphy

 The Lancaster Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is concerned about criminal activity among local youth and the affect it has on their young lives and its impact on the community.

Instead of sitting around and bemoaning the problem, the group is drawing on the organization’s 104-year-old tradition of action and aims to address the problem head on.

However, they know this isn’t an issue to tackle alone – it’s going to take a community effort.

That’s why the local branch is asking the entire community to join it for the Crime Watch: Saving Our Youth town hall meeting from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12 at Mt. Zion AME Zion Church. 317 E. Barr St.

“The NAACP, of course, we are very concerned about the state of many of our youth,” said Lancaster Branch NAACP Political Action Chairwoman Verta W. Looper. “And we’ve had quite a few unfortunate incidents lately involving young people, not only teenagers, but certainly, many under the age of 30.

“We (the NAACP) are very solution-oriented, so we wanted to get the community together and try to develop some strategies and interventions to deter and prevent criminal activity among young people,” she said.

Looper characterized the format of the Crime Watch: Saving Our Youth meeting as a panel discussion with the audience focusing on youth and the justice system.

Among the panelists, she said, will be a minister, a high school student, an attorney, representatives from the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office and the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice.

Looper said the panel will also include a young Lancaster man who learned first hand the consequences of crime before turning his life around.

“He’s going to speak focusing on how he got led down a negative path, how he turned his life around and what youth can do to avoid going down that path,” Looper said.

Looper said the variety of panel members would allow for discussion of a wide range of topics, such as the role of the local church in crime prevention, what young people themselves can do, plus any topics on the subject presented by audience members.

She said another goal of the meeting is to tell residents about community resources already available to them and their families, such as programs operated by the juvenile justice system to strengthen family relationships and improve communication skills.

Looper said this issue of crime among youth is a serious problem that requires serious attention.

She said while it may not be an easy task, it is not an impossible task – especially if young folks, families and “all components of the community” work together.

“I am 100 percent certain if everybody works as a team we can make a difference,” Looper said.

The Crime Watch: Saving Our Youth town hall meeting is free and open to the public.

The meeting is the first of a series of town hall meetings the local NAACP branch hopes to host once a quarter.

For details, call Looper at (404) 408-4075.