As youth violence spikes, loved ones continue plea for peace
Mississippi has a higher homicide rate among youth in the nation according to the CDC
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - According to the Centers for Disease Control, youth violence is a leading cause of death in this nation. Homicide is the third leading cause of death for young people 10 to 24 years old.
Most of us were shocked about the arrest of a 17-year-old in Jackson who is now allegedly connected to at least seven homicides. One of the first questions how could this happen? The answer is it happens far more often than many of us are aware.
The consequences are felt by families and mothers like Erica Body. Her 17-year-old son Shamar was shot and killed a few days after Christmas in Canton. In our Exclusive interview, she fights back tears as she shares one of her most precious memories of her son.
“He was 11 years old, and I’ll never forget the day that I whipped him for going raking leaves around Christmas time,” Erica Body said. “I had no clue. He was only doing it to get me a gift for Christmas.”
Body says she can’t begin to explain the pain of losing her son to violence at such a young age.
“This is a nightmare. Sleepless nights, crying, waking up in chills, you know. Hoping it’s not real. Right, it is like it’s reality. You know, dealing with my kids. They’re waking up you know, can’t sleep. I’m thinking I’m dreaming. I’m thinking, I’m hollering. That’s a lot. and I just don’t understand why. Why?”
Jessica and Tiffany Frazier know the pain all too well. 20-year-old Parish Frazier was shot and killed March 2020 in Jackson.
Jessica Frazier said, “at the same time his mother, was shot three times. My grandson actually passed away in my arms.”
The mother and daughter have formed the group MOMS, Mothers of Murdered Sons. They have put up billboards in the Mississippi Delta. They are now bringing the billboards to Jackson.
“Ninety percent of these young men were raised without a father,” Jessica Frazier said. “And we as mothers we have to pick up the slack for the mothers and the fathers. And we as moms, we need to pull together.”
Tiffany Frazier was also shot the day her son was killed. It is still difficult for her to talk about it, but both are pleading with youngsters in the community.
“We have mothers who can’t even get up out the bed to go to work. We have mothers who can’t even pay their bills. We have mothers who lost their jobs. We have mothers that’s homeless because of this. I promise you, this is not somewhere you want to put your mother,” said Jessica Frazier.
The CDC has been gathering information from around the country on youth violence, especially since the pandemic where almost every city and town have reported an increase in youth crime and violence. Aimee Trudeau is a health scientist in the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention.
“Among non-Hispanic Black youth, homicide is the leading cause of death,” Trudeau said. “And compared to the national homicide rate, the homicide rate for youths in Mississippi are higher.”
Trudeau says there are ways to prevent youth violence.
“Communities more broadly can make teen mentoring, apprenticeship and leadership programs more available. They can collaborate with health departments and other partners to promote healthy and safe neighborhoods, and they can make use of effective social and economic policies that reduce violence.”
Alfred Martin is one of the volunteers with the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee. He has been appointed by several Mississippi Governors since 1992 to help examine issues dealing with children. Martin says social media tends to glamourize violence and kids have more access than ever before and tend to duplicate what they see.
“What a lot of courts are recognizing now is that these kids have gone through trauma themselves or witnessed trauma with their families, coupled with the fact that there are more guns on the street, coupled with the fact that they are more than likely not in school, coupled with the fact that they have probably been neglected themselves. They tend to develop, not the way we want them to develop,” Martin said.
Martin says there are many people who care about children and want to help them.
“You had your neighborhood softball team. You had all these programs, you had your after school programs, but those things have dwindled away and these kids are just kids out there on their own. And when there is no where for them to go, when they don’t see positive role models, then they’re gonna see negative role models and when they see negative role models the negative role models are urging them on to be to be as we call them or we don’t want to call them thugs. But they urge them on to be bad kids. That’s what we are seeing.”
Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam is a member of the Commission on Children’s Justice. Judge Beam says one step in dealing with youth violence is the state dealing with poverty.
“Here at the Supreme Court, often times we look at mitigating circumstances in cases and it absolutely breaks my heart when I see from the very beginning they lived in poverty, they as a 5 and 6 years old stole food in order to eat,” Justice Beam said.
Justice Beam says these are not excuses but root causes of teen trauma and violence. She and Martin say the public needs to be aware that trauma in the early years leads to community wide problems like the violence we are currently seeing in towns across Mississippi.
“If we put more positive role models in front of them through neighborhood organizations, through community based organizations, through their teachers and schools and what have you, I think that we might see a turn. But until that happens, I think we’ve got to be prepared for what’s coming,” Martin said.
Judge Beam said, “We need to educate ourselves on what is going on in our community and I would say that each one of us has a part to play in strengthening our kids and making a healthy Mississippi for all of us.”
2022 has been designated Year of Hope for Children. Justice Beam and Martin say hope is one of the greatest things we can give at risk children.
“Many folks do not see hope<” Beam said. “They don’t see that tomorrow can be brighter. Their family lived in poverty and they just think it’s a “gimme.” We need to change the way we think, we need to change the way we serve one another.”
Last week as we worked on this special report, a 14-year-old was shot to death inside a car in Jackson. Four other teenagers were injured.
Statistics on youth violence and homicide from the years 2020 and 2021 are not yet available from the CDC, but the numbers are expected to show an alarming increase around the nation and here in Mississippi.
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