Of the 88 homicides in Allegheny County this year, the vast majority of the victims have been in their teens and 20s.

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Youth gun violence is at the center of a renewed search for solutions in Allegheny County.

Shortly after midnight on Dec. 15, 2020, six shots rang out in Penn Hills, instantly killing 15-year-old Jafar Brooks. He was a Central Catholic High School student and the grandson of community organizer Rashad Byrdsong, who has worked for 30 years to prevent other young people from dying.

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“We’ve been involved in violence prevention for a while, working with families who have lost children to violence, but there’s a greater meaning and understanding emotionally when it happens to you,” he said.

Amid the shocking rise in youth homicides this year, Byrdsong and his Community Empowerment Association are issuing a clarion call to the schools, hospitals, government and outreach groups to pull together and craft a compressive strategy to stop the carnage.

“Our children are our future and we have to make sure that we create safe places for them, that we’re part of their growth and development,” Byrdsong said.

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Of the 88 homicides in Allegheny County this year, the vast majority of the victims have been in their teens and 20s. So far, 21 of the victims were between 11 and 20 years old. Thirty-five were between the ages of 21 and 30.

But the murder of 15-year old Central Catholic student Steven Eason has resulted in safety measures, like fans being excluded from high school football games, and is galvanizing a resolve to address the crisis.

Byrdsong is holding a meeting of the stakeholders on Thursday night. Psychologist and violence interventionist Dr. Staci Ford is coming but wants this to be more than just one more meeting where people talk.

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“There’s enough for everyone to sit at the table and put their brain and manpower and their resources to make difference cause this has to stop. We can’t keep losing our young people” Ford said.