AURORA, Colorado – Leaders and activists in the city of Aurora are calling for an end to the rise in youth violence after six teenagers were gunned down in a park Monday.
Aurora police are still investigating the shooting and are asking the public for help in locating the suspects who opened fire on the Nome Park teens. The six teenagers are expected to survive.
Mayor Mike Coffman called the shooting alarming in an interview on Wednesday and said finding out exactly what happened and why would help the city figure out how to move forward to curb the violence.
“I think a lot of it is gang related. I think a lot of it is because there is natural escalation, ”Coffman said. “They tend to escalate and then you create a culture within these gangs, so it’s hard to step into that, but we’re working on it.”
Coffman believes part of the solution is to make sure the police department has the resources it needs and is fully staffed.
He told Denver7 that some of the DPA’s specialist units have recently been twinned due to staffing issues and officers have been transferred to patrols. He wants these specialized units, in particular the gang intervention unit, to be fully staffed again.
“There has to be a law enforcement approach to those who pull the trigger,” Coffman said.
The city is also looking to increase its youth violence prevention program and after-school programs.
However, Coffman insists that youth violence is not just an Aurora issue but a regional issue, and he says he has contacted the governor’s office to see if there is a task force. multi-jurisdictional who could work on that.
“The point is, these kids have access to guns. We have to find out how they have access to guns, ”Coffman said.
Local activists, meanwhile, say there needs to be more community outreach and talking to teens.
Alvertis Simmons held a meeting on Wednesday in Nome Park to try to encourage area teens to come talk to each other.
“It’s not just a question of the police. This is a community issue, and that’s why I’m here as a civil rights activist to say “hey, we’ve got to do something,” Simmons said.
He calls the increase in teen violence in the region a health crisis and says that in order for Aurora police to gain public cooperation, they must first rebuild trust.
“They built a relationship with these black and brown kids, and these kids who do the shootings,” Simmons said.
Christina Amparen, community manager of the Aurora Youth Violence Prevention Program, agrees that it will take a larger community effort to curb violence.
“We know that the traditional response to tackling violent behavior has not worked. We know that traditionally this was just the law enforcement response, ”Amparen said. “If we want to have a bigger impact, we need to have a multi-faceted response. “
Since Monday’s shooting, his group has helped community organizations visit seven of the schools surrounding the park to talk about what happened and to identify ways to support staff and students.
The group also helped organize a shelter, even at the Salvation Army, to encourage families to come and talk.
In order to reduce violence, Amparen says Aurora needs to focus its resources on the communities most affected or experiencing the most constant violence.
A rally is scheduled for Friday to bring the community together and call for an end to the shootings. For now, community leaders say something needs to change as teen violence cannot become the new normal for Aurora.