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How do you stop teen gun violence? We asked Orange County’s top Law Enforcement Leaders

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — In just the last year Eyewitness News has reported on the arrest of multiple teenagers for gun-related crimes.

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On Wednesday, we told you about the arrest of two teenagers for a shooting that killed a 16-year-old boy in Sanford. A third teen has since been arrested in that case.

And earlier this month, we reported on an 11 year old who was arrested for shooting two 13-year-olds.

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During a meeting for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Eyewitness news asked leaders what should be done to address youth gun violence.

“Education and early intervention. You’ll hear me preaching that as long as I have this job,” said Orange-Osceola State Attorney Andrew Bain.

Bain told Eyewitness News his office is working to create a new program that would work with kids already involved in the juvenile justice system.

Bain said some of the kids in the juvenile justice system are years behind on their schooling. He said the program would provide juvenile offenders with literacy tutoring and mentorship.

According to Bain, the goal is to provide kids with juvenile records the tools they need so that they don’t become part of the adult system.

“If we’re just going to say don’t be violent, and then not provide them with any resources or opportunities on the back end, it’s not going to work. We’re just going to see them again later on committing some other violent crime,” said Bain.

The State Attorney said his office was still working to secure funding for those programs, but he hopes for an official announcement soon.

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Meanwhile Orlando Police Chief Eric Smith touted mentorship programs including Operation Positive Direction which is geared towards middle and high school students who face social, economic, and academic challenges.

“When a juvenile is involved it’s very hard on us, we have our outreach program we’re doing more on, but we also need the community’s help,” said Chief Smith.

The keynote speaker at Thursday’s event for law enforcement executives was former Orange County Sheriff and current Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

Deming’s also highlighted the need for collaboration when it comes to addressing youth violence.

“We as a community have to come together. It takes the faith community, the philanthropic community, and it takes the public sector,” said Demings.

Deming’s also pointed to the work of the County’s Citizen Safety Task Force that was convened after 3 people were shot by a 19-year-old in Pine Hills back in February.

That task force suggested solutions to address community violence overall. It recommended funding programs including Credible Messengers.

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In August, Orange County did vote to fund 5 new mentorship positions through that program. Those mentors work with at risk youth in neighborhood hotspots.

“We have had great success with our long-term strategies to reduce gun violence. It is not something that happens over night because we have to change human behaviors and that takes time,” said Demings.

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