Milwaukee teens lead community discussion on gun violence and reckless driving

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — Dozens of Milwaukee teens want to help deal with gun violence and reckless driving issues that they say have an almost constant impact on their lives.

The teens hosted a town hall discussion on Friday, July 29 that aimed to connect them with city, county and state officials to find solutions.

Over the past few months, teens have studied reckless driving and gun violence, researched trends and analyzed solutions.

Almost all of the teens shared their own personal stories, such as shootings in their neighborhood, family members involved in an accident, and personal loss.

Teenage moderator Nicole Hayes said: “I’m young. But I see a lot of things.”

And teenagers feel a lot. Joshua Lyons was among dozens of teenagers who shared deeply personal stories on Friday.

Joshua said: “The car that was shooting a block away comes into our neighborhood and starts shooting.”

And they explained why they think their peers resort to crime that affects the community.

Hayes said, “Some people just don’t understand what they’re doing. They really see it as a personal matter and don’t think it can impact everyone around them.”

Over the past few months, teens at the Center for Family Preservation have been studying reckless driving and gun violence, and they’ve met people affected by both.

But the problems don’t just affect teenagers. The town hall discussion also included Police Chief Jeffrey Norman, who said, “I’m a resident. I see the driving. I’m scared for my family. I’m scared for my wife.”

Chef Norman added: “It’s a shared responsibility to understand, you can’t always act like it’s someone else and not you.”

Shakita LaGrant-McClain, director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services, said it’s everyone’s responsibility to improve the situation.

Pointing to the room, she said, “And if I’m not, I’m tagging you. And if you’re not, you’re tagging. That’s right, that’s right.”

Community member Jerel Ballard said: “I graduated in 2013. And since then I can say that I know that at least three of my classmates have lost their lives to gun violence. . And one of them lost a baby because she was pregnant at school when she was shot.”

Latrece Hughes is a victim of reckless driving. She recalled when she was hit: “Two blocks from my house, my mother and I were boned by a stolen jeep.”

Many teenagers said they wanted to help change their behavior and how people react to stress.

Teenager Rena Ellis said while some people may wander around to clear their minds, too many of her peers turn elsewhere.

“These kids don’t take midnight walks, they take daytime walks and they want to hit the gas as hard as they feel the pressure pushing them.”

But the discussion didn’t just focus on the issues. Teenager Jaivion Simpson said: “We’re coming together and bringing young people together to focus on these issues and see what we can do to change.”

Teens want to take action and join their peers all over town.

Joshua said: “I’m also looking forward to it because I know there are groups of kids like us who will bring change, who will bring hope to this town.”

Friday’s discussion lasted two hours, and Joshua said while it went well, he wished they had even more time to continue exploring their ideas for making Milwaukee safer.

Moderator Robert Kelly said, “What legacy do you want to have? Do you want to let a trigger and keys control you? Or get the help and changes you need to improve yourself and change the community.”