Spike in violence among area youth challenges groups
Richard Carrington sacrificed spending the Thanksgiving holiday with his family to help relocate a young man from Pittsburgh whose life was in danger due to the growing violence in the Hilltop neighborhoods.
Mr. Carrington is the founder and executive director of Voices Against Violence (VAV), a group dedicated to empowering youth and reducing interpersonal conflict among members of underserved communities in South Pittsburgh.
“There was a threat made against this boy’s life and I wasn’t going to wait around until someone killed him or he killed somebody else,” Mr. Carrington said. “So I put him in my car and drove him up the mountains where some friends of mine were willing to take him in.”
Recently, Mr. Carrington spoke at a news conference called by the South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace (SPCP) following the shooting death of 11-year-old David McIntyre in his home in Mount Oliver on Nov. 1. David’s 16-year-old brother, Christopher “CJ” Conrad, was also shot and is recovering from his injuries at UPMC Mercy Hospital.
Mr. Carrington has no regrets about forgoing a holiday in order to turn someone’s life around. The young man in his care, who asked to remain anonymous, said he is thankful for the help.
“Do you know what it’s like to always have to look over your shoulder every five minutes? It’s bad,” he said. “I got myself into this situation but I’ve made the decision to change that. I want to do better.”
In response to a shooting death of a Carrick High School student in 2005, the Birmingham Foundation formed SPCP in cooperation with several community-based organizations, faith institutions and other service providers.
“The SPCP was created to provide training for the community on how to deal with violence and how to prevent it, as well as healing the impact of violence on our families,” Roxanne Epperson, program manager for SPCP said. “We’re still trying to do that, and we bring in professionals to train the community at large on these issues.”
According to Ms. Epperson, the SPCP will be meeting as a group next week to solidify a plan on how to deal with the spike of violence in the Hilltop neighborhoods, but right now she said SPCP is “calling on law enforcement, politicians and the community to come together to combat the violence.”
Voices Against Violence has the same mission as SPCP: to end the violence in Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. Mr. Carrington formed VAV in 1995 to help create a safer community for his newborn daughter and her siblings to grow up in.
“It [VAV] has a dual purpose, to combat violence and to provide a program for kids in the community,” Mr. Carrington said.
According to Mr. Carrington, over the past 20 years VAV has worked with schoolchildren of all ages to stop violence in schools as well as to help with education and offer tutoring services.
VAV also runs a summer program for kids and has accumulated thousands of hours of community service.
“We envision a violence-free city,” Mr. Carrington said. “We are trying to help young people who don’t have positive role models in their life. We want to keep the kids busy and involved so when they are older, they have a desire to work and give back to the community.”
Despite the best efforts from organizations like VAV and SPCP, violence continues in Pittsburgh and cities across America.
“If you think about this on a wider scale, there are billions of dollars that go toward combating violence. Unfortunately, if you look at statistics, the numbers have barely changed, and in some cases have risen.”
Mr. Carrington believes the reason violence cannot be stopped is because none of the organizations created to combat violence and help the youth are required to work together.
“To fix this, you have to rely on everyone working together, and right now the foundations donating money to these organizations do not require they do so,” he said. “So we consistently run our heads into the wall because we are not giving the youth the complete service they need.”
Mr. Carrington continued to say in order for youth to succeed in these programs, there has to be some level of consistency in their life.
“To see a kid once a week for an hour provides no consistency because they have 167 other hours to do whatever they want to do,” Mr. Carrington said. “We are sticking our finger in a dike and hoping another hole doesn’t open up, and yet there are billions of dollars being given and we do not rebuild that wall.”
A candlelight vigil for David McIntyre will be held Tuesday, Dec. 1 in the 400 Block of Hays Avenue in Mt. Oliver at 7 p.m.