Members announced for Youth Violence Prevention Committee

Published 9:29 am Monday, February 6, 2023

The potential solution to Vicksburg’s juvenile violence problem will take the cooperation of city and county resources and Mayor George Flaggs Jr. has assembled a multi-agency committee to develop a comprehensive program to get it under control.

Flaggs Monday appointed Vicksburg Police Chief Penny Jones chairman of a member youth violence prevention committee that includes Felicia Kent, Champions-COVID-19 Advancing Health Literacy Project; Anessia Martin, city human resources department; Cedric Magee, Vicksburg Warren School District; Cindy McCarley, Good Shepherd; Rachel Hardy, Warren County Youth Court; Carla Sullivan Sanders, Medgar & Angel Scott Community Life Center and the Rev. Dexter Jones, Kings Empowerment Center; Joe Johnson, Central Mississippi Prevention Services; and the Rev. General Bryant, pastor of Travelers Rest Baptist Church.

“I have looked at the youth violence over the last couple of weeks and I have concluded that it is in our best interest to create an ad hoc committee to look at where we are and create a pathway to the future for our young people,” Flaggs said at the start of Monday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. “Punishment is not an end-all; we have to do more than that. We have to create a collaboration between all the entities that have to do with our youth.”

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That collaboration, he said, must be “all-inclusive” and involve city government, police, the Vicksburg Warren School District, Warren County Sheriff’s Office “and all the resources in the community.”

The committee is tasked with creating a comprehensive strategy to combat juvenile violence by using a multi-prong approach of education, prevention, intervention, parental coaching, family counseling and other relevant factors, and developing a youth program comprised of juveniles recommended by the Warren County Youth Court and the Vicksburg Warren School District.

It will also develop a comprehensive plan addressing the mental, psychological and behavioral safety and well-being of the city’s youth and maintain a database to monitor chronic absenteeism aimed at decreasing the dropout rate in Vicksburg.

The decision to appoint the committee follows the Jan. 30 shooting death of 13-year-old Carleone Woodland. Demetrius Cormier, 16; Koury Lawrence, 19; and Phillip Moore Jr., 16; all of Vicksburg, have been charged with first-degree murder and three counts of aggravated assault in the shooting, which injured two other teens. All three are being held in the Warren County Jail in lieu of a $3.5 million bond each.

The city’s youth, Flaggs said, “Are our future; we have to embrace them and when the parents fail, we have to act and that’s what I intend to do.” He said he would ask the board to develop a program and opportunity that will use the vacant Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce building on Mission 66 for youth development.

“There is no reason why, in our community, we can’t save our children and direct them in the direction they need to go,” he said.

He said he would meet with Vicksburg Warren Superintendent of Schools Chad Shealy and present a proposal to the school district Board of Trustees at its Feb. 23 meeting.

Flaggs said he would “take off tomorrow (Tuesday) morning and all day to look at all the proposals that are being presented and put them into one. I refuse to believe there’s no hope in Vicksburg, Miss. for our youth.

“I refuse to believe there has to be violence in our community,” he added. “I refuse to believe that we cannot identify, we cannot track and we cannot record these repeated offenders, these violent offenders and at the same time give service to those who need it.”

Flaggs said he plans to use his experience from his time in the Legislature “to reform this system in Vicksburg like never before. My legacy and the legacy of this board cannot be violence in Vicksburg.

“We cannot have violence among youth or anywhere on the front page and on every news channel and then have a progressive city. You can have all the economic development but if you can’t get crime off the front page, they’re not coming.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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