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Initiative searches for more afterschool activities for kids to crackdown on crime

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BATON ROUGE - People in North Baton Rouge discussed ways to reduce crime at a community meeting Monday night. One of the topics: more safe activities for kids outside of school.

That discussion came less than 24-hours after six kids were arrested. Police say they shot and injured a man on North 18th Street using BB guns.

Jerome Merricks, who lives nearby, says that situation could have ended much worse.

"Would not buy your child a BB gun, it looks real," he told News 2's Brittany Weiss. "Some people might mistake that for something real".

The kids were detained, charged with aggravated 2nd degree battery and released to their parents. Merricks says the kids shouldn't have BB guns in the first place.

"If you're going to buy 'em anything that's going to advance them in this world, but them a book!" he exclaims.

There's a city effort to prevent crimes like this. It's a grant program that's been in the works since 2014. The BCJI effort targets violent crime, drivers of crime and its effects, complimenting the BRAVE Initiative. Monday night, members of the community met to talk about progress the effort has been making on things like crime, workforce development and after school activities.

"We want to keep our kids and our youth occupied and doing positive things, building on their capacity to lead in their community," Gail Grover, the Mayor-President's Assistant CAO says.

Parents and grandparents in attendance at the meeting at BREC's Saia Park on North Donmoor agree.

"Keep our focus on the children," Angela Coates says. "Keep our children off the streets."

The effort focuses on hot spot areas for violence within the 70805 and 70802 zip codes. The BB gun incident Sunday evening happened in the 70802 area.  People like Merricks say more after school activities will help, but learning begins long before then.

"It starts at home with the mother and father," he opines.

Another meeting for the BCJI grant is Wednesday, March 30th at 4 p.m. at BREC's Gus Young Park.

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