JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Ward 5 Councilman Vernon Hartley hosted a town hall with a panel of youth engagement specialists on Thursday, June 30.

“This is our village and it’s up to us to make sure that our youth realize our fullest potential, provide a safe space for them and just watch them grow,” said Councilman Hartley.

Officials agree that policing plays a major role in keep communities safe.

“It was incumbent upon us in law enforcement to regain the trust of the community,” said Criminal Justice professor Kevin Lavine.

Professionals said there isn’t much for children to do in Jackson, which is part of the problem.

“In Hinds County, there are 4,700 young people who are disconnected from employment and education. Research indicated that if young people feel disconnected from employment and education, they’re more likely to give into some anti-social behavior.”

“An opportunity, that’s all they’re looking for. They’re sitting at home doing nothing. We give them an opportunity and those young men and young women, those are our leaders,” said youth mentoring skills and training specialist Bennie Foster.

Acknowledging mental health issues was another major topic.

“What’s going on is a lack of understanding of mental health. A lot of times we look at the behavior instead of trying to figure out what’s causing the behavior.”

Youth engagement specialists also said some children turn to the streets, because they aren’t able to open up to adults in their lives and their issues are often belittled. Overall, community members agree that it will take law enforcement agencies, schools, local organizations, and other officials coming together to effectively combat crime in the capital city.