How the city can help provide activities for young people to prevent them from getting involved in violence, drugs and alcohol was a topic at the City of Roswell public forum last week, but none of those who took the floor did say they had solid answers.
The discussion came after the city witnessed several violent crimes involving minors this year.
Mayor Tim Jennings, in his opening remarks at Thursday’s forum at the Roswell Convention Center, pleaded with the public for ideas on how to help prevent teens from turning to violence.
“There is no reason for a 15 or 16 year old to have a gun and carry it around. There is no reason for that. If there is, let’s find out what the cause is and fix that cause,” he said.
Colette Hall, director of the city’s recreation department, said the city offers a variety of activities for young children.
“It’s very easy to do from zero to 12 years old. Once they hit 13, it’s a very difficult group to schedule,” she said.
The recreation department has had some success with teens this year through its lifeguard program, she said.
“We found that a very good program that we have put in place is the junior lifeguards. It prepares them for a job, so we can look at other things that prepare you for 16, 17, 18 and you can go for those jobs,” she said.
A teen party at the pool was also a success with around sixty young people present.
“The lifeguards are mostly teenagers so they can have their friends, and they all came and it was a great place for them,” Hall said.
Having a place to go is a problem, said Diane Taylor, prevention specialist with Chaves County DWI Prevention.
“They love gathering places and some of the places where they gather right now are not the best for our community. We have a serious underage alcohol and drug addiction problem in our community. What can we do to provide an alternative? ” she says.
City Manager Joe Neeb listed other entities offering activities for young people, including the Roswell Museum, the Roswell Public Library and the Spring River Zoo. He also mentioned organizations and businesses such as Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, Roswell Independent School District, New Mexico Military Institute, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, dance, martial arts, boxing, community theater, churches, 4-H and FFA.
He asked for the public’s help in identifying how the city can provide or help promote other activities.
“My question is, when we talk about what young people can do, what are we missing? ” he said. “We have a lot of things for us to do, but some of them are hidden. We risk missing our marketing point.
He and councilor Juliana Halvorson also said it was important to help identify barriers that might prevent some children and teens from participating.
“A lot of these programs cost money,” Halvorson said. “Most of these programs, they have programs where they can accommodate children who don’t have money. There’s really no excuse other than maybe transportation, but I’m sure you can get a ride.”
Halvorson said she spoke with Hall about the city’s recreation programs scholarship offer.
A man in the audience asked if it was possible to bring back events like the Hike It and Spike It flag football or the Gus Macker basketball tournaments.
Neeb said these are good examples of how the city in partnership with other entities can bring positive results to Roswell.
“When there’s community support for something, there’s no stopping us,” he said.
“Don’t leave it on the town’s back to do it. It’s the community that’s important for that,” he said.
“The city is happy to be at the table to get this done, but if we lose the community behind it or think we know better than the community, we’re also going to miss the point of it all,” he said. said.
Hall said the community just needed to start working on a solution.
“I think our answer is we start trying a bunch of different things and see what really works,” she said.
Neeb said community members can use the Fix-It form on the city’s website to suggest ideas.