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Agencies partner to curb youth violence in Richland County

“It's not a law enforcement problem. It's not a park problem. It's a community problem," said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Richland County Sheriff's Department and the Richland County Recreation Commission, along with local police chiefs, held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss how to curb youth violence. 

“It's not a law enforcement problem, it's not a park problem, it's a community problem," said Sheriff Lott.

The group brainstormed different ideas such as keeping parks open later, transporting kids to activities, establishing a youth task force, and creating after-school jobs.

“We need places for our young people to go and have fun and keep them busy," said Lott.

Sheriff Lott and Richland County Recreation director Latika Watson said they'll be talking with youth about initiatives they'd like to see, as well. Watson said what was cool for her when she was a teen, “may not be as cool in 2022.” 

“As long as we’re working together, we’re gonna be successful.”

Richland County Recreation Commission Director Latika Watson said she's excited about the partnership between the Commission and the Sheriff's Department. Watson said this topic hits home for her as she grew up in a community similar to Richland County. 

“Not having positive influences can lead to some of the things and most of the things that we are seeing," said Watson. "So being a product of recreation, knowing recreation saved my life, I'm full on in doing whatever we can as a commission and my board stands behind that.”

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They also said the groups will meet quarterly to continue brainstorming and implementing ideas.

Parent Latechia Thompson said she hopes these discussions will help prevent what happened to her daughter Trinity Sanders, who died due to gun violence in July. 

"You never expect this to happen to you but when it does, it just is very heartbreaking," said Thompson. 

Thompson said she's happy law enforcement had this discussion, but she hopes officers will include parents like her in future discussions. 

“No one deserves this, but I know for a fact that my daughter didn't deserve this," said Thompson. 

She reminds everyone that behind a statistic is a human being. 

RELATED: Teen brothers arrested in connection to shooting, Richland County deputies say

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