Walking down the streets of Burlington, it's hard to believe that a very serious problem exists. But at-risk youth are being exposed to drug trafficking and dealing right in our neighborhoods.
"Some of our older Boys and Girls Club kids in the middle and high school grades were telling us things like they were afraid in their neighborhoods," said Mary Alice McKenzie, the executive director of the Burlington Boys and Girls Club.
While any child may be targeted by a gang, many children pulled into crime are lower income children or students who may not excel in school.
"We know that children who are suspended in school are at a greater rate have a greater likelihood of failing in school, perhaps dropping out early, or not achieving enough in school," McKenzie said.
McKenzie has formed a task force to address concerns of gang-related activity among local youth and how the community can work together to stop children from becoming targets for gang members. She brought in a gang prevention and intervention director to help the task force understand the extent of the problem and the solution.
"So far, what we've decided is that we need a different way of collaborating together around prevention efforts," McKenzie said.
The United Way, Burlington police and community members joined the task force. Police say over the past 18 months, there has been an increase in gang-related crimes. But the problem affecting local youth is not what they say they would call "gangs," the concern is vulnerable kids being targeted to distribute drugs and carry out illegal activity.
"So, we want to make sure that we're not worried about someone's official affiliation with a national gang or a street gang in a big city. What we're worried about is groups of people getting together and sort of organizing criminal enterprise," Burlington Police Chief Mike Schirling said.
The task force hopes to provide at-risk kids with other options, such as after-school activities and programs to keep them off the streets. But the first step is getting the community to understand it is a problem that exists, and addressing the influx of drugs in Burlington and Vermont takes the support of the city as a whole.
"This is about reducing violence, increasing the safety of the community, reducing the flow of drugs, getting treatment to those who need drug treatment, and ensuring that everyone has an opportunity for education, employment, housing, all the basic needs at its lowest level," Schirling said.
The Vermont Boys and Girls Club hopes to begin a grant process as soon as this fall through the Boy and Girls Club of America to help fund their efforts.
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:49 PM EST2014-03-09 02:49:49 GMT
The Burlington Yoga Conference began Saturday at UVM's Davis Center. The event gives participants a chance to connect the mind body and soul through workshops they may not have access to on a daily basis.More >>
The Burlington Yoga Conference began 6 years ago and has become a staple in the community.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:29 PM EST2014-03-09 02:29:17 GMT
A warning for pet owners in our region. Coyotes are on the prowl. A biologist in New Hampshire says he has received more than 10 calls recently, in the Keene, New Hampshire area, for a deer that was takenMore >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:21 PM EST2014-03-09 02:21:44 GMT
As spring approaches, many Vermont homeowners prepare to work on their houses - so they head to the Burlington Home Show. And many Vermont small business owners - with their products and services on displayMore >>
Many business owners at the Burlington Home Show say the new health care system in Vermont is helpful, but some say it's causing a real headache.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 8:07 PM EST2014-03-09 01:07:08 GMT
A rally at the State House in Montpelier Saturday. A passionate group of dozens of women, and men, assembled in front of the State House Saturday for the Women's March for Dignity. They were demandingMore >>
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Saturday, March 8 2014 10:21 AM EST2014-03-08 15:21:27 GMT
Two firefighters are recovering from minor injuries. They were injured while fighting a at the Bennett Farm on Route 15 on the Johnson-Cambridge town line. The fire started in a shed around 7:30 FridayMore >>
Two firefighters are recovering from minor injuries.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:20 AM EST2014-03-08 15:20:42 GMT
Friends are rallying around families who lost everything in an apartment building fire in St. Johnsbury. They immediately took to Facebook after hearing about this fire and started planning to collectMore >>
Friends are rallying around families who lost everything in an apartment building fire in St. Johnsbury.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:20 AM EST2014-03-08 15:20:05 GMT
Reporter: "What are some of the most common burn injuries that we see with kids coming into the hospital?" Jim Esdon, Dartmouth Hitchcock Injury Prevention Center: "This time of year, the glass frontedMore >>
We've had another cold week that's left homeowners cranking the heat. But what does that mean for kids' safety?More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:19 AM EST2014-03-08 15:19:21 GMT
Armed with just two L rods, 87-year-old John Wayne Blassingame starts looking for water by asking yes or no questions. "Does it go past 20 feet, does it go past 30 feet, yah," he says. The rods crossingMore >>
A national organization based in Danville says it is providing resources to people in desperate need to find water.More >>