Feb 23, 2023 - News

Denver in line for $1M grant as it seeks for answers to curb teen violence

Illustration of gun barrels getting longer forming an upward trending bar chart.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

At least four teenagers in Denver have been victims of shootings — three of them fatal — over the past three months.

What's happening: Tayanna Manuel, 16, Aaliyah Cortez, 16, and Elias Armstrong, 12, have been killed since Christmas.

Driving the news: The city is set to receive a $1 million grant from the state to develop an approach for crime and crisis intervention for young people.

  • It would focus on what Denver Public Schools calls pathway schools, which are for at-risk youth who have been exposed to traumatic events like domestic violence, Denver Public Safety Youth Programs director Pat Hedrick said Wednesday.
  • Among the program's goals would be providing more students with mental health or substance use counseling at their schools.
  • The spike in violence is also prompting some city leaders to consider bringing back school resource officers.

Why it matters: The string of recent violent incidents involving youth has left some young people in the city reeling as they fear losing friends and classmates.

What they're saying: "We're scared," East High School student Teo Tullar told the Denver City Council on Tuesday. "We don't want to be in school — we don't feel safe there."

  • Tullar and other East High students attended the meeting to ask local lawmakers for help to address the violence. Tullar said he feels "powerless."

Zoom in: Bryan "Pastor B" Sederwall, who runs the Denver Dream Center, which helps people with reentry, and frequently works with at-risk youth, tells Axios Denver there's a sense of "pent-up frustration" among young people he works with.

  • Sederwall thinks giving young people things to do — like afterschool programs or playing sports — gives them a positive outlet and keeps them out of trouble.

Threat level: "What I see is that there is way more fear, and way more fights, and way more threats … than there was four years ago," Denver City Councilmember Amanda Sawyer, who is a mother to teenagers, said during Wednesday's meeting.

  • Sawyer suggested the program for pathway schools paid for by the grant, including providing counseling, should be expanded to other schools in the district.

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