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Community leader says everyone needs to play a part in changing city's gun violence problem

Aralana Alexander with H.Y.P.E. LLC, says everyone, even if they don't live where violent crimes are happening, should look to see how they can help.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The city of Toledo's has seen a record number of homicides already this year, but Aralana Alexander, CEO of H.Y.P.E. LLC, Helping Young People Excel , said it's not just a 'Toledo issue'.

H.Y.P.E. offers personalized and professional behavioral healthcare services for pre-teens, adolescents, and adults.

"It is now your problem because it directly affects you. You might think that it doesn't. It does. Who do you serve? What is your job in this community? You live in the community. Where do you drive in this community?" said Alexander. "Our kids go to school with some of the kids, some of the youth that are committing the crimes, or some of the individuals who are being affected, who have been murdered." 

She says everyone in the community, even if they don't live in one of the areas where the crimes took place, should look to see how they can help.

RELATED: Community leaders in Toledo look to themselves to curb teen violence

"You can't just put that aside. I think that we should come together as people, as people who want better for our community, for our society to figure out what the real problem is," Alexander explained.

The problem is more complex than just saying "teens, guns and gangs", according to Alexander. 

She says social media and values also play a part, since viral videos typically don't mention safe and smart conflict resolution. Alexander asked what's cool to a teen, being smart or carrying a gun?

While several anti-violence events have been hosted throughout the city, Alexander says she understands everyone's frustration with the apparent lack of change when it comes to violence. But that change won't come easy.

"We're telling ourselves or other people, 'Nothing is working'," said Alexander, "But no, you need patience, because this behavior, these homicides in Toledo, they didn't happen overnight."

RELATED: NW Ohio youth shelters experiencing uptick in teens needing housing

Community members can support local movements by donating time, money, or sharing details and attending the anti-violence events she said. Any efforts done can in some way help the community. And when you donate, Alexander says you should be compassionate and realistic with your expectations. 

"Are you expecting change in a six-week program? That is unrealistic," Alexander said. "So you're telling me, 'I'm a 16-year-old that has gone through, probably more trauma than you could ever imagine; has had more loss than you could ever imagine; and you're telling me, you're giving me this 6-week program and I'm supposed to not recognize what happened to me 16-years-ago?' No way."

While Toledo's homicides have reached record numbers this year, Alexander said the community shouldn't discount work that's already been done. Don't assume some change isn't happening and that teens aren't putting themselves in better situations.

"How do we know they're not taking it? Right? Is that something that we're assuming? How about, I give you this resource but then I send you back into this same community," Alexander explained.

She believes if there's no change around the problem, how can anyone expect the problem to change, without help from the community.

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