PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Every year, law enforcement members gather for the annual Regional Gang Awareness Conference.
This year, they focused not just on gangs and terrorism, but also on preventing violence from impacting schools.
Wednesday was the last day of the conference and community members, school leaders and law enforcement came together to talk about keeping kids safe.
Children are far more likely to be exposed to violent crimes than adults. It’s a scary thought, but it is something U.S. Attorney David Hickton said is a reality.
Hickton said one of the tools to help prevent kids from going down the wrong path is often absent from their lives.
“One of the tools for success is to have someone to look up to, someone who can give you guidance and give you a role model. And many of the kids who are at risk, simply don’t have that,” Hickton said.
Conference organizers broadened the topics this year to include the impact violent crimes have on children.
From street violence, to school fights, to cyber-bullying, by working together with law enforcement, schools and the community officials said it’s a fight that can be won.
“A large focus of the work today is to give kids who are at risk another option and give them the tools, together with their teachers and school administrators the tools,” Hickton said.
One big focus was on the importance of the “One in a Million” mentor program.
Pheone Tolliver, a social worker with Pittsburgh Public Schools, said it’s a vital program and could help diminish the impact street violence has on at-risk kids.
“They do tend to do better if they have a positive adult in their life that they can rely on and look up to for role modeling,” Tolliver said.
“Our goal is 4,400 new mentors over the next three years. And we are well ahead of our target at this point,” Hickton said.
Hickton stressed the importance of preventing crimes across the board, not just in schools.
He also said Pittsburgh is doing a great job after a nine percent decrease in violent crimes.