SEATTLE - Gun violence in Seattle was at an all-time high last year.
16 young people were victims of shootings in the city, five of them lost their lives. Violent crimes continue to affect the youth across Western Washington—one local group hopes to bring change and save lives.
The Youth Violence and Conflict Resolution Initiative is hosting a seminar in an effort to break the cycle of youth violence. This is the first time the group is hosting a seminar, with a goal of hosting the event every third Sunday of the month throughout the region.
"There’s something out here for us to do. And as you see, if we don’t, it’s going to get worse," said Yahree Israel, a community outreach coordinator with Youth Violence & Conflict Resolution Initiative.
Israel said the goal of the seminar is to inspire and empower young people, teaching leadership and communication skills while fostering empathy.
"What we want to do is show proper problem-solving skills. That’s the main thing. We’re going to have youth doing skits showing, ‘This is how you resolve things,’ and ‘This is how you resolve when there’s conflict,’" said Israel. "We want to show them that there’s a different way and this is how you can do it."
So far in 2023, Seattle Police have referred 300 juvenile offenses to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Officials said 197 of the total offenses are felonies. Leaders in the prosecutors office’s juvenile division said though juvenile referrals are at historic lows, there is greater concern countywide of youth and violent crimes involving guns.
Israel said there aren’t enough positive outlets for kids these days.
"You see community centers closing up," said Israel. "I was growing up in the 80s, 90s, there was more back then. You would think that as times goes on, there would be more, but there’s actually less. And so now, guess what? They’re turning to the streets more than ever today, and they’re doing pretty much what they want."
Israel hopes community can help him and the Youth Violence and Conflict Resolution Initiative do something about it. The seminar will be held Oct. 1 at the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle from 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
"We’re going to have backpacks, haircuts, the youth skits, we’re going to have keynote speakers. Come learn and be a part of [it]," said Israel.
The group is also looking for community partners and sponsorships to help the event grow in the future, reaching more young people and offering them resources.
"Give the children something else to look forward to," said Israel. "We can do something, and we are doing something. And there are willing bodies to step up and do something."