Boone County responds to increase in youth violence

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COLUMBIA - The Boone County Children’s Services Board announced it will postpone Thursday's youth violence conference, citing concerns about the novel coronavirus.

 “We value the health and safety of every member of our community.” says Community Services Department Director Joanne Nelson, “While it is unfortunate to postpone this event, we plan to continue working to improve the health and wellbeing of children and families in Boone County.”

According to the announcement, the board is working to identify potential future dates for the conference to be rescheduled.

The board planned to invite experts in crime data, trauma, and grief to the Youth Violence Prevention Conference to brainstorm solutions. This meeting comes after an increase in youth violence in the county. Board director Joanne Nelson said the problem is widespread.

“It could be violence anywhere from schools to the community to neighborhoods,” she said.

The board even let kids have a say in the community's actions against violence. In January, 65 Boone County residents between 12 and 18 years old sat down and expressed their thoughts in youth focus groups.

Findings from the focus groups said kids feel pressure to prove themselves to others, often leading to violence. Other findings show some feel unsafe in their neighborhoods.

“We all have to worry about whether it’s going to be my best friend next,” one of the kids said. “That’s just caught in the cross fire. Or who’s caught or who’s shot at in her car and crashes and dies like we have to worry about that. But we don’t have adults that are talking about it like we have adults that will talk about it with other adults.”

Nelson said one act of violence can affect everyone. The board wants to not only prevent it, but help people recover from past violence.

“It could be somebody whose daughter got shot. What does that do to the family?” Nelson said. “How can we help that family?”

The three main solutions the youth focus groups came up with were positive activities, youth centers, and communication. The conference is the first step in creating those.

“We want the community members to decide what the outcomes are going to be and what is best for the community,” Nelson said. “These are people who are involved with these kids and families every single day that are going to help guide what the outcomes will be.”