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Voice of Hope working to prevent violent crimes by juveniles

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 5:57 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The city of Lubbock saw more cases of sexual assault by juvenile offenders in 2021 than in 2019 and 2020 combined, according to police data.

Those young offenders represented more than one in five of all sexual assault cases in the city last year.

Kenneth Castillo with Voice of Hope is working to prevent those crimes by creating a safe space that builds a sense of community.

“One of the protective factors that goes into preventing not just sexual violence, but all violence is to have youth and adults understand what it means to be part of a community,” Castillo said.

Castillo is creating that understanding with a community garden.

He says it teaches young people how to sow a seed today, for better, stronger relationships tomorrow.

“Whenever we put a seed in the ground that seed develops a relationship with the environment around it,” Castillo said. “No different than youth. They develop relationships with their environment, and if that environment is toxic those are the only relationships they will be able to model. We cannot expect youth or anybody to model health relationships if they have not ever seen them before.”

As those seeds sprout, so does the opportunity to learn and grow.

“We’re having those organic conversations about relationships about families that we should be having at the dinner table,” Castillo said. “We have those conversations about intimate partner violence. We have those conversations while we’re in the garden because they see it. They see it in their community already. Everybody can see it in their community. They see violence. That is not the question. It’s how do we mitigate that? How to we mitigate violence before it happens.”

Castillo says the community project allows kids to reduce stress from everyday situations like school or social media interactions and helps build mental strength.

“We’re going in and giving the youth the opportunity to build themselves up,” Castillo said. “The idea is that if you care about your community, you respect your community, you’re not gonna want to destroy your community.”

The community garden is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 10 a.m. until noon. Castillo says everyone is welcome to come help out or even take some of the vegetables if they need to.

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