NAACP plans to get hold on youth crime problem

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge leaders are trying to get a hold of crime in the city. They said it's more than something parents and police can take on. It's the whole community.

"Have a seat, and that's when they told me my son had got shot," said Terronia Harrell.

They're words that took Harrell by surprise. Her 21-year-old son was killed May 12, 2009. Three years later, Harrell said her son knew he was headed down the wrong path and wanted to make a change.

"He told me, 'Mom, I'm going to start going back to church because I need to get back in church.' I said, 'Courtney, you really need to.' I guess it's like he knew by him going back to church, that he wouldn't be hanging with the wrong crowd," Harrell explained.

But, just like Harrell, Carolyn Zeno, whose 21-year-old son was also shot and killed five years ago, said that attempt to turn around came too late.

"That week, he had just moved his things back into my house and got ready to move back home and was possibly trying to get a job offshore," said Zeno.

Which is why NAACP Director Kwame Asante held a meeting Monday night called "Save Our Black Men" to hear from area pastors and those surrounded by the children in question.

"We are seeing a large percentage of African Americans, particularly males, consistently incarcerated," said Asante.

They laid out the problems: lack of motivation, no father figures and lack of fear. They hope to come up with strategies to tackle the problem head-on.

"Our goal is to not only lay out the strategies, but also create an action plan and actually make them work," said Asante.

Because unless something is done soon, crime scenes will continue playing out with mothers like Zeno and Harrell raising their boys only to lose them to the street life.

"I think we're going to self-destruct ourselves. The kids don't fear God. They don't fear their parents. They fear the police," said Zeno.

The NAACP meeting is the first in several years to try to tackle the problem at hand. The next meeting will be April 23, which is the fourth Monday in April.

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