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Petersburg leaders, community members hopeful roundtable discussion will slow violence

Rise in violence to be addressed at Petersburg roundtable talk
Posted at 5:54 PM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 17:54:30-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- Petersburg City Schools, parents, students and city leaders will meet on Monday night to hold a roundtable discussion about gun violence in the city.

"Personally, I do have a family member that has been killed from gun violence so hopefully, I can share that with them," Maritza Scott, an 11th-grade student at Petersburg High School, said.

When Scott takes part in Monday's discussion, she plans to let the adults in the room know that she is scared.

She isn't alone in her fear.

"I am afraid. Some people are afraid to go outside, be within the community at family gatherings because of the violence," Scott said.

Her end goal for participating in the event is to help stop the violence.

"So I hope after tonight, it will spark some type of change within the community and hopefully parents and the victims of this violence will be heard," Scott said.

Gun violence in Petersburg has been a reoccurring problem in 2022.

"You're seeing teenagers with guns and the question is, where are they getting guns from? That's the concern we have," Kenneth Pritchett, the chairman of the Petersburg City School Board, said.

These concerns are why Pritchett and Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham decided to take action with the planned discussion.

"Because we have some youth that have been involved in some violent crimes and we have youth that have also died from gun violence so we need to come together and have that discussion within our city because it's about saving all of our young people," Pritchett said.

One of the things that many of the recent gun violence incidents have in common is social media.

"Social media is what we believe has been a very huge part in some of the violence that has occurred here in our city," Petersburg Police Chief Travis Christian said.

"A lot of texting and posting on social media is also causing fights within our community so we need to have that discussion too," Pritchett said.

While students like Maritza and other Petersburg residents may be on edge, there is one place in the city they say they feel safe.

"I feel like school is a safe place. They do bag checks every morning, security checks, scans, so yes, I do feel safe at school," Scott said.

"We are checking students. We're checking their book bags when they come in, just to make sure they're not coming throughout our schools with weapons because we want to make our schools as safe as possible for everyone who attends," Pritchett said.

The roundtable discussion will get underway at the Petersburg Library at 6 p.m. If you can't attend, you can watch online using this link.

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