Dozens of residents and volunteers with a handful of community organizations packed the gym at the Olivet Boys and Girls Pendora Park Club in Reading Saturday night to address the recent wave of youth violence in the city.
Organizers of the town hall announced they’re launching a new Community Youth Empowerment Organization. The organization will work on initiatives addressing community-police relations, education and how to reduce delinquency, domestic violence and street crime.
County prosecutors tell 69 News many recent gun crimes in Reading are being committed by young people, individuals who have no right to own or carry a firearm. In one incident last month, a 16-year-old girl was killed, and a 17-year-old was hurt in a shooting on Scott Street. Police say a 14-year-old boy pulled the trigger.
“In the city of Reading, youth engagement is really big when it comes to stopping the spread of youth violence,” said Denisse Duran, a graduate of Reading High School and a first-year nursing student at Alvernia University. “I have friends that tell me, if I wasn’t in football, in basketball or cheerleading, who knows where I’d be. In the streets we see so much violence.”
There is a push to set up a telephone hotline to help kids who encounter certain crises, like mental health emergencies. The Youth Empowerment Organization is also working on setting up outreach groups to canvass neighborhoods.
“It’s up to those who’ve come before them to lead the way by being an example and creating change because, right now the youth is in danger,” said Eric Davis, a Reading City resident.
“There are resources out there,” Duran added. “With COVID, it makes people feel like they have no one to talk to and nowhere to go.”