By Danielle Miller
Gathered in a small white and yellow room, community members sat down to brainstorm ideas on how to reach the youth within the community. Surrounding a red table in the middle of the room, the empty chairs were soon filled by a steady flow of locals hoping to find a solution to the animosity many teens are facing.
The event was sponsored by A Cry for Help Foundation, created by Bianca Williams two years ago. William’s foundation was founded for community issues such as stollies, teens who steal cars, the rising epidemic of K2 and other community issues.
Randy Jones, founder of Staying on Track Inc., participated in the event, and lead the discussion for issues to possible solutions.
“We can’t keep being traditional,” Jones said about past approaches, “it hasn’t been working.”
Throughout the meeting, all of the members shared their ties to the “stollies” issue, and how the media was covering it. They concluded that there was more to the story than just the headlines.
“A 12 or 13-year-old would be killed for everyone to wake up,” said member Mike Scrill, “When you get them one-on-one, you realize they’re doing something they don’t want to do.”
The mission isn’t just to stop stollies, but instead help the teens find places to burn off energy, especially in the winter.
Tracey Dent, a community member said that the hardest part was getting the local teens to trust their intentions.
“Be real,” Dent said, “Kids know who is fake and who is real.”
In recent reports, children from ages 11 to 17 have stolen cars, some up to 30 cars. The car theft fad has been agitated by local rap music that glorifies car theft and crime, as well as major media’s blaming local youth for crimes they did not commit.
Two teen boys were involved in a fatal crash after stealing a vehicle and fleeing police. Another 17-year-old boy was killed after stealing a van and hitting a tractor trailer while trying to escape police, all within the month of January.
Solutions were addressed over all aspects of the community such as adopting a family and helping them get the resources needed so parents did not have to spend time away from their children, and in turn the youth have more adult supervision.
The rise of the local rap music that fuels stollies has given teens a model of life to look up to, promising money, new clothes and attention.
“Life isn’t about clothes,” said community member Torrence Greer, “It is about support.”
Teen support is a gap many organizations want to bridge in order to help the community grow rather than survive.
David Muhammad, a preacher within the community has had enough of the media bias.
“Often times we blame young people because it’s easier.” Muhammad said about recent stories around Sherman Park.
The goal of the “Stop the Stollies Campaign” is to find a more impactful and positive outlook for local teens involved in stealing cars.
For more information visit their website at https://www.facebook.com/StoptheStollies/