LYNCHBURG, Va (WFXR) — According to the Lynchburg Police Department, youth involvement in violent crime throughout Lynchburg is on the rise. Several local agencies in the Hill City say they’re working to keep kids safe and reduce the violence.

Micky Ferguson from the Diamond Hill Center says their goal is to help young people become the best versions of themselves.

“We are in this profession because we care, that’s why we are here,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson says the increase in youth violence is a community concern, so it will take the community to make it better.

“When people come on Diamond Hill grounds, you’re going to be safe, it doesn’t matter if you’re the little bitties, the youth, adults, or seniors. This is a safe haven,” said Ferguson.

The Diamond Hill Center offers resources such as after-school and summer programs. Ferguson adds that they work with other agencies in the community to help guide young people, holding weekly events and opportunities to get involved.

She says in her 18 years with the center, she has seen how much of an impact their work has made on the community.

“I’ve seen youth become lawyers, doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs, and they always come back and say thank you,” said Ferguson.

Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club in Lynchburg, Mark Sheehan, says youth violence is a complex concern, but adds that an increase in poverty in the city may have had a significant impact.

“If they’re feeling hopeless, then they’re not going to have a lot of reasons to do well in life,” said Sheehan.

Sheehan adds that one program they are focusing on is getting teens interested in careers. He says with the help of Virginia Technical Institute, they are working with teens as young as 13 to help provide opportunities for them to learn and grow and pursue strong careers.

“We have to get more young people into more positive activities, to build our membership and try to serve as many young people safely as we can,” said Sheehan.

Ferguson emphasizes that often people don’t even know the resources that are available, and
she encourages people to check with community agencies about how they can help build a bright future for the kids.

In addition to The Diamond Hill Center and Boys and Girls Club, some other organizations working to support families with young children and teens include the Jubilee Family Center and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Virginia.