CLEVELAND -- In the division and anger over the alleged sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl, there is the start of a possible turning point, community leaders said.

There are hurting families that want their story told, said Lance Blackwell, an ordained minister who runs the weekly Cleveland Prayer Center.

Blackwell said the alleged assault and the arrests of 17 teenagers and young adults had opened a
dialogue and started a frank conversation about hurting neighborhoods.

The family breakdown and [lack of] children being home in the evening is a big factor in what we're seeing in our communities around the world, he said.

Nearly a quarter of the families in Cleveland live in poverty.

There are also plenty of documented cases of troubled youth.

The problem is, we have no youth center, said Brenda Myers, who started the Community and Children's Impact Center. They have nowhere to go. They're going to continue to run the streets and find something to do. Our drug dealers are taking over. Our gang members are taking over. And, until we step up as a community, and as a family to these kids, [it's] going to continue to happen.

Nationwide, statistics showed that nearly half of all violent crimes were committed by someone under age 25.

The statistics also showed that teenagers accounted for 15 percent of the nation's arrests.

We're actually in a community where many of the grandparents are actually raising the children, said Blackwell. As a result of that we're finding situations where children need something to do.
Blackwell said the solution may already be in Cleveland with friends and neighbors stepping in to help fill the voids of broken families.

All of our children are at great risk, he said.

Read or Share this story: