‘We are seeing an escalation of conflict on social media’: City leaders discuss youth gun violence

Posted at 6:12 PM, Jan 29, 2020

DENVER— City leaders held a meeting to discuss the rise in teen gun violence but had trouble agreeing on the best approach.

In just the past week, two Denver teens were killed in shootings.

The district attorney's office said juvenile gun possession cases had nearly tripled over three years from 46 cases in 2016 to 120 in 2019.

The neighborhoods dealing with the highest density of gun crimes are the Westwood, Cole, Park Hill, Montbello, Green Valley Ranch, and East Colfax.

The Denver Juvenile Probation Department recommended starting a new handgun intervention program to reduce recidivism and keep youth from entering adult court. The program would need about $200,000 in funding to get started.

But others questioned if resources weren't better spent on prevention and intervention.

"I know the police are doing everything they can, community groups are doing everything they can, but we need access to resources and money to help us deal with this issue," Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore said.

Gilmore recommended programs that help youth learn life skills, financial literacy, and workforce development that provides year-round employment.

Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen says gang crime has actually gone down, but youth violence has gone up.

"It's not about going into a neighborhood and arresting anybody for every petty type of crime, it is truly using the intervention strategies," Pazen said.

The police department detailed a plan that included solutions like mental health co-responders, partnering with Denver Public Schools, and safe gun storage programs.

Absent from the meeting were the parents and community members most affected by gun violence.

Youth advocates spoke during public comment about the need for outreach during non-working hours.

They also shed light on what's going on in the minds of young people.

"We are seeing an escalation of conflict on social media that is getting out of hand and growing into violence," youth advocate Jonathan McMillan said.

He said gun culture and fear is pushing youth to pick up a firearm.

"Because they feel like everyone else is carrying a gun, then I need to carry a gun. The beast feeds upon itself," he said.

McMillan said there are dozens of great programs to help youth, but they don't receive the funding and support they need to be successful.