Anti-violence panel discusses possible solutions to teen violence, crime

CHARLOTTE — Teens helped lead a community conversation Tuesday about gun violence that often involves their peers.

“I wanted to make sure that I do my part, and in doing my healing, to heal someone else,” said Malachi Thompson, a senior at West Charlotte High School.

Thompson is part of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Youth Council and was on the panel at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church off Beatties Ford Road.

“I recently had a death in my family tragically due to gun violence,” Thompson said.

The student-leader believes a lack of mental health resources for his peers is playing a major role in shootings, car thefts, and assaults.

“We need people who have been in our shoes that can talk to us about how to keep our minds straight,” Thompson said. “How not to grab that gun, and how not to grab or kill someone based on how we feel.”

Solutions was the goal for the town hall hosted by Charlotte City Council At-large Rep. Victoria Watlington.

“I want to connect as many people to resources as possible,” Watlington said.

She was talking about everyone in the community, including District Attorney Spencer Merriweather, officials from Mecklenburg County Public Health, and members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

“We’re definitely taking this as a renewed focus because the climate has changed since some of the laws that have come down from the state,” Watlington said.

Watlington hopes conversations, including the one on Tuesday night, help spur quick solutions as city leaders search for ways to address juvenile crime.

“How do we get into the community to folks who wouldn’t otherwise be coming to one of these town halls?” Watlington said.  “That is going to be the key.”

Mecklenburg County Public Health has launched a strategic plan as part of a public health approach to violence prevention.

The plan aims to reduce the rates of homicides and gun-related assaults by 10% by 2028.

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Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.