LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) – Little Rock’s homicide count rose to 10 after two people died in multiple shootings on Friday. Amid the deadly start to the year, a North Little Rock pastor publicly invited gang members and affiliates for a sit-down conversation in hopes of finding common ground.
“Let’s get involved in the lives of these young people,” said Eric Crowder-Jones, pastor of Another Chance Church of NLR.
Crowder-Jones, who began his ministry after a stint in prison, said he believed he could mediate between warring factions because of his connection to their struggles. The pastor said he spends time with people directly involved in the ongoing violence and mentors some in his work.
“A lot of times young men come into my office…gang members, people who aren’t in gangs but are just temperamental,” Crowder-Jones said. “We have a frank conversation.
Some local activists cite the lack of affordable housing, the inaccessibility of loans to finance businesses, de jure and de facto racism and the difficulty of achieving upward mobility as reasons why young people in poor areas resort to violence. Crowder-Jones said leaders need to step up and young people need a place to vent their frustrations.
“Maybe it’s a feud, but when do we get to the point and how do we get to the point where we’re saying even though we’re arguing, violence isn’t the way to handle this?” said Crowder-Jones.
With more killings seemingly every week, Crowder-Jones said he plans to welcome gang members and affiliates to his church next Wednesday at 7 p.m. He said political or police approaches to solving the problems had done little to quell the problem.
“You can’t fix it. You tried,” Crowder-Jones said. “Now let the streets speak so you can hear what they have to say.”