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Task force dedicated to stopping youth violence revamps its message

Born from a regionwide effort in hopes to curb youth violence, a task force in Virginia Beach finds itself under the helm of a familiar face.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — An effort to prevent young people from turning to crime moved forward in Virginia Beach. 

Leaders with the "Task Force on Youth Violence and Prevention" addressed city council to say more preventative measures need to be taken.

"I was a cop for 45 years. I think about all of the victims and all of the cases I've ever had to deal with and especially the young ones," said Jim Cervera, former police chief and leader of the task force.

Cervera said he had the victims and perpetrators of violence involving young people in mind when he first created the task force. He said the task force can only be successful when both small-term and long-term goals are kept in mind.

"We need to build a roadmap, to build on what we have, to take it to the next level, to give our young folks that positive experiences, so that they won't turn to violent activity," said Cervera.

The plan is to encourage all young people ages 10 to 24 to resources that already exist, such as libraries, community centers and mental health services.

Virginia Beach Vice Mayor Rosemary Wilson said they need to emphasize more on these programs to help young people stay out of crime. 

"There are other things to do, there are other outlets, there are other hopes out there for young people, rather than thinking they have to turn to a life of crime," said Wilson.

However, leaders with the task force said Virginia Beach is only a small part of the overall picture. Cervera said he plans on having a similar conversation with all the mayors across Hampton Roads in order to make a difference in young people's lives. 

The next phase of the task force will also include talking directly to citizens about what they think is the next best move. Cervera said this should begin by October.  

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