KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The increased violence in South Kansas City is all too real for Elon Freeman.
"I recently lost a loved one to violence," Freeman said. "She was only 17 years old. We’re not sure as to everything that has happened, and we wish that the case would get solved. But we just wished it never happened in the first place. That would have been so much better than having closure for something that shouldn’t have happened."
Only a junior in high school, Freeman said she wants to see an end to the violent crimes taking the lives of her peers.
"It's pretty alarming and pretty scary because it's sad that you have to watch your back every second because you never know if someone is having their own conflict over here, that you're not going to be in the middle of it, because bullets fly everywhere and they don't specifically have a name to them," Freeman said.
Freeman was among a diverse group of community members who shared stories of how violence has affected their lives at a town hall Wednesday at the Hillcrest Community Center. Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, Sen. Barbara Washington and Rep. Mark Sharp hosted the event, which focused on reducing violent crime among young people.
"The source of the future are the young people," said Washington, who represents District 9, "and the people that are more involved with a lot of the crimes that are going on with respected gun violence are our youth."
During two panels, residents shared their thoughts about the violence. One consisted of stories from youth like Freeman, discussing the traumatic experiences they've had to face at young ages. The second panel consisted of leaders who ensured the South Kansas City community they are working to solve the problem.
KCPD Deputy Chief Joseph Mabin, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker and KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas also attended the town hall.
"We have a lot of powerhouses here," Parks-Shaw said, "and we are listening and taking notes so that we can get some information not just on a local level, to get solutions from local government, but to look at solutions from the state level as well. Hopefully together we can make a positive impact on our violent crime issues."
Sharp, who represents District 36, is from South Kansas City and said the violence is an ongoing issue that needs a solution fast.
"A lot of our students are being affected from trauma, not just from inside the house but outside the house," Sharp said. "I think that if we can get them to understand what’s happening, I think we can get them to have a further discussion on how we can address it."
Freemon and others asked that lawmakers, community members and others who will listen hear their cries for help and bring about real change – putting a stop to the violence taking the lives of so many young people.
"We never know when it's going to be our last day," Freeman said, "but it shouldn’t be at the hands of one of our peers."