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Columbus youth see impacts of rising crime, violence

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 8:04 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Right now in Columbus, some children are being exposed to an increased amount of crime and violence.

With the amount of homicides and murders plaguing the city, children are being traumatized and their childhoods are being taken away.

Jermaine Lawson, who was imprisoned as a teenager, says his childhood played a huge role in the decisions he made leading him to prison for ten years.

“I saw crack, I saw crime and the environment around me not being productive and all the while thinking that was normal,” Lawson explained.

With 53 homicides in Columbus so far this year, some children in the Fountain City are being exposed to the same type of trauma.

“50 to 58% of our kids will be exposed to one or multiple ACEs in their life time before they hit 18 and what we know is that 30 percent of those will either become a perpetrator or become a victim of violence,” said Cure Violence Columbus co-founder Reggie Lewis.

According to Lewis, the ACES he describes are Adverse Childhood Experiences.

“This could be abuse, it could be divorce, or some level of traumas seeing a father, brother, or mother killed,” said Lewis.

This is something Columbus resident Norman Quarles says he was exposed to as a kid.

“When I was 12, my mom had a brain aneurysm. So, I turned to the streets,” said former inmate Quarles.

Quarles, who eventually turned his life around after being imprisoned three times, is now a minister. He says children in Columbus right now need love and care.

“We need to have boots on the ground out here going to these people, checking on these kids, seeing what’s wrong with them, checking on their mental state because they still have to get up and go to school,” explained Quarles.

Lawson says violence is stealing away the childhoods of many children in Columbus. He says a lot of the violence happening in Columbus is starting with the families.

“My dad told me, ‘Don’t get caught.’ That was the biggest thing - don’t get caught,” he added.

Lawson says there are many families condoning lifestyles that lead to crime, therefore, causing their children to not understand the impact of their decisions.

“So, the severity of what they are doing it may effect or resonate may resonate with them to a certain degree but not in it’s entirety,” said Lawson.

Many Columbus organizations are fiercely working to decrease the amount of violence and crime children are being exposed to and help them cope with it.

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