June 7, 2019. KSNT

People in the Topeka community are taking a stand against gun violence. 

One of them is Angela Lee, whose 18-year-old son Justice Mitchell was shot and killed in 2017.

The annual basketball tournament to honor his memory was held Friday at Hillcrest Community Center.

Lee said seeing how much her son was loved by those who knew him makes it difficult to know he’s not here to see it.

“It’s devastating,” said Lee. ” Death itself is devastating, but to lose a child, we’re not here to bury our children at 18.”

Justice was one of 30 people murdered in Topeka in 2017, the city’s deadliest year yet.

As the struggle to reduce gun violence continues, community members are stepping in to help solve the problem.

Representatives from the Topeka Justice Unity & Ministry Project (JUMP), the Topeka Center for Peace and Justice, law enforcement and other organizations gathered at Stormont Vail Hospital for the Healing Gun Violence conference Friday.

There, they discussed ways to help make the community a safer place for everyone.

“We needed to begin to look at some issues, to look at some strategies really that could make a difference, that could reduce this horrific situation in our city,” said pastor Lorna Boden of the Tecumseh United Methodist Church.

One of those strategies is group violence intervention, a strategy that focuses on working with groups that are at high risk of being violent crime offenders or even victims and encourages the community and law enforcement to work together as partners.

Paul Smith with the National Network for Safe Communities was one of the speakers at the Conference. He’s helped implement programs aimed at reducing violence in communities across the country.

“What we’re after here is informal social control to where the community can come in and say that violence will not be tolerated,” said Smith. “We’ll stop you if you make us, but we’ll help you if you let us.”

With city and county leaders on board, community members are hopeful the new strategy will be a step in the right direction.

“I encourage people to focus on unity,” said Lee. “Make Topeka something to be proud of.”

They’re also hopeful others will get on board and join the effort.

“We want to be a part of helping stop it, so get involved,” said Boden. “It’s time.”

To find out more about Topeka JUMP, click HERE.

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