PANAMA CITY, Fla. - In the last two weeks, Bay County has lost two young men in our community in separate shootings. Now, the organization that was founded in concern to a 2014 string of murders in Panama City is speaking out.
The director of the LEAD Coalition says in those tragedies back in 2014, 70-80% of the people involved were ages 25 and younger. With these shootings in the last two weeks, unfortunately we've seen the same, even some teenagers were involved.
"Certainly it's hard to ignore something like that particularly when we know that it was just two years ago we had the rash of murders. By year's end there were 10," said Janice Lucas, LEAD Coalition Director.
This has the LEAD Coalition of Bay County working to figure out how we can avoid any more tragedies.
"How can we work strategically to asses and then take action in this situation," said Lucas.
The recent events have sparked outrage in the community.
"Many adults are beginning to express anger and that's a good thing because in many instances it takes being mad and fed up in order to make a change," said Lucas.
Many organizations and churches are planning to hold different forums and meetings and the LEAD Coalition will work to facilitate a collaborative effort between all.
"There is work that needs to be done at the neighborhood level, at the church level, at the law enforcement level, but our role as we see it is to bring together folks across different interests and agencies, organizations, churches, to say, now, how can we work together," said Lucas.
Lucas says the key is to start with the youth of Bay County.
"It's going to take our time, it's going to take our money, our heart and it's going to take people being willing to sacrifice in order to reach youth and help them move from wherever they are on this spectrum of drugs and gangs and violence and into a productive part of the citizenry," said Lucas.
The LEAD Coalition also held their 10th "Voices Against Violence" forum Thursday night. It's a series where they discuss how to bring law enforcement and the community together. Their next meeting is February 9th at 6 p.m. in the Bay County Public Library.
To get involved, you can search LEAD Coalition of Bay County on Facebook to connect with them there, or give their office a call at (850)913-3263.
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