1,000 mentors needed to help combat Lakeland gang violence - WFLA News Channel 8

1,000 mentors needed to help combat Lakeland gang violence

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LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) -

Lakeland is dealing with a gang problem and city leaders think with the help of 1,000 good-hearted people, it will decrease.

Last month, Mary Cason's children found themselves at the scene of what Lakeland Police labeled the third drive by-shooting in two days.

“Scared, very scared,” Cason said of her reaction when her children told her the news. “I'm glad it wasn't them but I hate it was someone else’s child. It's very scary."

What's also scary, she believes, is the word so frequently attached to the crime in her neighborhood.

“Everything you hear is 'gang-related,'” Cason said.

Neighbors keep calling on police and the city to step up and now the city is asking them to do the same.

“This isn't just a government problem, this is a community problem, and we're trying to address this as a community. We need help,” Lakeland Spokesman Kevin Cook said.

If 1,000 people who have a heart to help will each commit to mentoring a troubled teen, the city's organized gang-task force thinks we'll see gang-violence drop.

The idea came from a successful program implemented in failing schools years ago and the force is hopeful that it's the beginning to an end of a troubling problem facing our youth and our community.

“Many of these kids that are part of gangs don't have that positive role model influence,” Cook said.

How those mentors will be organized and trained will be part of a discussion of a community wide task force against gang violence. The meeting happens at the Coleman-Bush building on Martin Luther King Blvd. in Lakeland May 20th at 6 p.m.

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