AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Aurora police is close to arresting suspects involved in the Nome Park shooting that left six teens injured last week. Police Chief Vanessa Wilson joined community and school leaders Monday for a discussion on preventing youth violence.
“I don’t want to put handcuffs on juveniles. I need everyone’s help in that,” said Wilson.
Last week, Wilson said youth violence is a public health crisis. Following the Nome Park shooting, she said these incidents are not all on law enforcement. Wilson told the community they need to get through to kids and figure out a way to stop this.
Wilson, Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn, state Sen. Rhonda Fields and other city and state leaders met in Aurora to speak about gun violence.
“The pipeline to prison is real and I don’t want to be a part of it,” said Wilson. “We’ve made three arrests regarding Hinkley High School, all were 16 year olds. They’re on their way for attempted murder.”
Wilson asked students in attendance directly at Monday’s meeting — “What do you need from me?”
Students who attended spoke out.
“What do we need from you? I say more events, more police events for Black people to build that trust,” said one teen.
Wilson told the teen she appreciated his comments and said the department is starting youth engagement opportunities and invited him to take part.
“We want you to come out and get to know you and for you to know that you can trust us. I’m not saying you’ve got to trust every officer, because every person in every profession has someone that’s not there for the right reasons,” said Wilson. “”‘m not going to sit here and say that I don’t have those. But I will tell you that I have amazing men and women that want to meet you, that want to help you, and are putting their lives on the line for you.”
Wilson acknowledged the city cannot police their way out of this problem either.
“They may be afraid to turn to me, so they need to have leaders within this community they can turn to,” said Wilson. “We’ve got to have a way for the kids that want to help and don’t want to be involved in a mass shooting, that don’t want to see their family members or their best friends go to prison. How can they tell us without the fear of retaliation?”
City leaders in the room say it’s not just a relationship with police. Superintendent Rico Munn says there’s something students aren’t learning at home or in school.
“They don’t necessarily see opportunity in their community or they perceive that there’s not enough opportunity for them. It also is coupled with the epidemic of easy access to guns,” said Munn. “It’s also coupled with us not doing enough to teach our kids how to resolve conflict in other ways how to address those things.”
Going forward, he says the district will be more intentional about finding ways to approach those skills.
Mothers like Fields hope improvement happens before another family loses a child.
“We need to make sure that we’re protecting their future. Protecting their future means that we make sure they do not have access to guns,” said Fields.
The cities of Aurora and Denver recently announced plans to host gun buyback programs next year in response to youth violence in the Denver metro area.