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Local community leaders trying to combat spike in violent crime involving children

Children have been the victims of or suspects in multiple crimes in the St. Louis area in recent weeks

ST. LOUIS — There's been a rash of violence in St. Louis in recent weeks involving children.

Community leaders say children and teens have either committed or fallen victim to serious crimes.

Now, local leaders are taking a hard look at the problem and what can be done to try to curb it.

The Urban League's James Clark isn't mincing words. He said youth-related violent crime has "become a crisis in St. Louis."

"There has been a strong rash, a strong uptick," he said.

That's how Clark, the vice-president of public safety and community response, described recent violent crime involving young people in St. Louis.

"This is the result of our inability to do the necessary neighborhood engagement and to confront this culture," he said.

On Sept. 22, police said an 11-year-old boy pistol-whipped a driver while his mother carjacked the man on the city's north side.

RELATED: 11-year-old boy helps his mom carjack man in St. Louis, police say

A few weeks later, in another case, investigators said a boy between 12 and 14 years old and a man carjacked a man at gunpoint.

RELATED: Boy helps man carjack driver in north St. Louis Thursday morning

And Sunday night, St. Louis police tell us a 12-year-old shot a 16-year-old multiple times on the city's south side. That teen was turned over to juvenile courts.

RELATED: Police: 12-year-old shot 16-year-old multiple times in south St. Louis

"If we're not prepared to really take a deep dive, this will continue to expand," Clark said. "This uptick in youth violence is taking place in the classroom. It's taking place in the home. It's taking place in neighborhoods."

The long-time community activist is pleading to parents, church leaders and others in those neighborhoods to unite and tackle teen crime head-on. And he’s not the only one.

"I really don't like it," Alandon Pitts, the founder mentors in motion, said of the recent spike.

For the past 12 years, Pitts and his team have gone into St. Louis area schools and encouraged more elementary, middle and high school students to pursue careers in science, technology, music and more.

Their goal: keep kids on the right path.

"You have to change their mindsets and the only way to do that is to reach them where they are," he said.

Clark said anyone who wants to organize neighborhood block units or wants more information on positive programs for kids can call the St. Louis Urban League.