JP teens talk about gun violence

August 15, 2014
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A recent rash of shootings—one of them fatal—in Jamaica Plain has stirred community concerns, including a packed meeting hosted by City Councilor Matt O’Malley. While officials and police investigators have weighed in on the issue of street crime, local youths haven’t had a similar forum.

The Gazette recently talked with two JP teens at the Hyde Square Task Force’s Community Development Center for their insights.

Aariana Barnes, 16, and Jonatan Lopez, 17, are members of the youth leadership team at the Task Force.

“It creates distance in the community,” Barnes said. “People don’t want to come to a community” where there’s violence, she said.

“It gives the community a reputation,” she added.

“It makes people not want to go outside,” Lopez said. “It brings a lot of cops to the streets and it makes people think that’s a hard street.”

Lopez said that whenever he visits friends in Egleston Square, he sees a lot of gang members around.

“In my mind, I already expect things are going to happen,” he said.

Barnes was more direct.

“No one is born violent,” she said. “Youths copy the behavior they see from people around them, and if what they see is violence, then that’s what they’ll do.”

As for their suggestions for lowering future instances of violence: more community-building, more jobs and more opportunities.

Lopez suggests “having a lot of places that accept kids, with tutors.”

“Or maybe more free events in the community,” he said. “Make sure people come out to the community, get to know each other.”

Barnes agreed.

“The youth make up the majority of the community. They need a place to have a positive impact on their lives,” she said. “Jobs are a really big problem. If kids have jobs, there will be [fewer] kids on the street.”

“The streets are an outlet for anger. If [youths] have something better to do, they won’t be out, making dirty money” through drugs and eventually, violence, she said.

Boston Police officers announced at a July 21 community meeting that four recent shootings, near the the Stony Brook MBTA station are connected, targeted and likely related to Mozart Street-area gang activity.