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'We will all be in better hands' | How a Charlotte group is connecting with youth to promote anti-violence work, building bridges

Heal Charlotte shares how they want to build bridges and keep youth engaged in healthy ways.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Despite what it seems like, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department said the city is seeing an overall drop in violent crimes. It comes as several local organizations are committed to pushing violence out of their communities.

Heal Charlotte is one of them. Group leaders say they keep working because they want to see a stronger Charlotte. To do that, they focus on the city's youth.

“I see the struggles of the city. I’m not one of those citizens who can just sit back and complain about it and not have a resolution or solution to what can be done. So, I’m just doing my little bit so nobody will have to do a lot,” Greg Jackson, founder of Heal Charlotte said.

CMPD reports overall violent crime dropped 12.5% in 2022 compared to 2021. However, homicides were up, with 110 last year.

RELATED: CMPD presents year-end report to Charlotte City Council

Jackson said although he is energized by the drop in violent crimes, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

“A large percentage of the homicides that are happening are with our youth at the ages of 14-21," he said, "so we want to make we have programming that assists those people to make smart decisions in the neighborhood."

“110 lives last year is 110 lives too many," said Brent Jones, Director of Service and Outreach for StoneBridge Church Community. "Although overall violent crime is down, we can’t rest.” 

Prevention is key for Heal Charlotte. The organization works with kids through mentorship, camps, anti-violence campaigns, and events in the community.

“We want to give them those skills of conflict resolution,” said Jackson. “We want them to be more village-minded, more community-minded.”

Jones helps provide transportation to kids so they can participate in after-school programs powered by SAFE Charlotte. Digi-Bridge and MeckEd also partner in this initiative.

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“A number of students who we take home would probably not attend the program because they wouldn’t have a way to get home,” said Jones. “We didn’t want that to be a barrier to someone attending the program.”

He also said this kind of work is a community effort, and making sure families and kids have the resources they need to prosper helps steer them away from a life of crime.

“If everybody has somebody who delights in them, somebody who believes they matter, I think that makes a big difference,” said Jones.

Jackson said this is all part of building the future leaders of the queen city. He wants kids to know they have a say and responsibility for the communities they call home.

“The devaluation of life that is happening right now in the city is alarming,” he said. “So, when we have people looking at each other and respecting each other, moving with integrity in the neighborhood. and we have the young people setting the standards of what they see as a safe neighborhood -- we will all be in better hands.”

Heal Charlotte is also working to stop the violence in the community in a creative way: by getting kids involved to spread awareness about anti-violence action. The group is using the kids’ love for fashion to communicate its message and how they feel about the dangers of gun violence.

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“Right now, we have our logo and it has a dove and a heart. One of the students said birds were carriers of messages back in the day so they wanted to send the message of stop the violence and spreading the love,” said Jackson.

He adds initiatives like these are engaging and help build confidence. The money raised through the jackets, shirts, and hats will go towards college tuition.

“It’s just neat to see the pride in what they have created as they get on the bus and being able to affirm them and encourage them,” said Jones.

This campaign kicked off on Martin Luther King Jr. day. The kids were completely involved starting with the sketch and design of the logo. They also have plans to put a fashion show together.

With the right tools, both Jackson and Jones say kids can stay on the right path.

Contact Jesse Pierre at jpierrepet@wcnc.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

WCNC Charlotte is committed to reporting on the issues facing the communities we serve. We tell the stories of people working to solve persistent social problems. We examine how problems can be solved or addressed to improve the quality of life and make a positive difference. WCNC Charlotte is seeking solutions for you. Send your tips or questions to newstips@wcnc.com.

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