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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - Saturday morning marks the fourth Youth Alert event in Kentucky, the first one to take place at Louisville's Central High School, and it is perhaps the most timely one thus far.
Mother Deanna McMillan was happy to participate. "While this may not directly affect them, it can," McMillan said. "Even though I feel like it wasn't my children in the streets, those are our children running in the streets and we have to be proactive."
You need not look further than the headlines of this month to understand Louisville's latest problem.
Teens and young adults are emerging as both crime victims and crime instigators in the city at an alarming rate.
"What is it that they're wanting? What is it that we can do," said Lynn Johnson, of the YMCA Black Achievers. Johnson's question is the backdrop for the Youth Alert event taking place at Central High School Saturday.
"It's just trying to create an equal platform for youth and adults to meet toe to toe where youth have an equal seat at the table, and we both can figure out how to reduce the violence," said Doug Wain, a Youth Alert organizer.
He said crimes were reported at their highest level ever in the Commonwealth in the last two years. That's more than 35,000 violent offenses each year.
Louisville leaders say overall crime in the city is on the decline, but Wain says about half of the crimes still involve teens or young adults. "We think violence is the greatest obstacle for our human kind right now. It might not be the hardest problem, but it is the biggest, Wain said.
The Lexington-based non-profit hosts community conversations throughout the state.
Johnson will speak on behalf of the YMCA's Black Achievers program. The program mentors teens between 8th and 12 grade to college.
"I feel that there is a cry for help. How can we help them with being creative in a positive way versus changing those creative thoughts into a negative," Johnson said.
Johnson will be joined by representatives from LMPD, judges, lawyers, teachers and parents including Carol Smith.
"I hope 200 parents are very, very pissed off," Smith said." After a week filled with negative images, Smith, President of Central High School's Parent Teachers Association, said the need for change is urgent.
"I hate to say this but a lot of people feel like once their kids are teens or get in high school they don't have to watch them the way they used to, or they don't have to bond like they used to. That's far from the truth. They need you now more then ever because there is so much crap out there that's trying to pull them in," Smith said.
Organizers know a forum can't fix this problem. "A community event can never take the place of an individual's ability to choose or the place of a family or mentor, but as a community we can set up a model of purpose and teamwork on the most crucial issue of our time," Wain said.
For Johnson and many others, it's personal. "I don't want to leave my neighborhood in a negative state," Johnson said.
Community leaders say they will try to change the headlines, one teen at a time.
"I know we are not gong to reach all. We're not going to reach all, but if you can just reach one or two you've done a lot," Johnson said.
The Youth Alert event is free and open to the public and welcomes all ideas. The event runs from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Central High School.