Violence prevention forum held in North Philly to engage youth, increase safety in communities

A local chapter of a national non-profit is on a mission to curb the gun violence epidemic and Saturday, sponsored a violence prevention forum in North Philly, with the goal of increasing safety in communities for young people and improving relationships with law enforcement.

"I feel like if the youth sees a Black police officer then they would be more inclined to want to follow their steps," 18-year-old attendee Kareem said.

The Philadelphia chapter of 100 Black Men, along with several law enforcement agencies, held a panel Saturday aimed at reaching the youth of the city as Philadelphia faces a critical time in violence that largely affects young, Black men and, in turn, their relations with police.

"I’m hoping to inspire some of these young people to just be someone who impacts change in their community," Lt. William Slaton said.

Lt. Slaton is the Heritage Affairs Commander with the Pennsylvania State Police. A Camden native, he knows first-hand how a negative relationship with police can affect a young person of color. He spoke on the value of changing that relationship and inspiring youth to be part of the change.

"You don’t have to succumb to your challenges and be a victim of your community," Lt. Slaton commented. "You can do better in your life and do better in your community, as well as your family."

Kareem, Isaiah and Roman are all just over 18. They say they see what that change can look like and hope more youth take advantage.

"I feel like giving these kids a good reinforcement in their local law enforcement is gonna go a real long way to helping." Roman said.

"When they see others like them, they’re more influenced to become one of them and be better and to speak up for their community and protect their community," Isaiah added.

Lt. Slaton adds that when a city and community fails to develop local citizens into local police officers, that can have a huge, negative impact. "Where I grew up in Camden, a lot of those police officers were not from the community, so they didn’t look and sound like us and they didn’t care about the community concerns."

The Philadelphia Police Department is hosting a law enforcement hiring fair on May 20 for all jobs in police work, not just police officers and they’re also offering a signing bonus for certain positions. Learn more about careers with the Philadelphia Police Department, here.