Can pools help reduce youth violence?

As Charlotte continued to absorb the shooting deaths of two teens last month, a fiery county employee on a panel to discuss teen violence talked about the importance of swimming pools.

Issac Applewhite, a senior Mecklenburg County official who works with youth and anti-gang programs, said one of the few functioning public pools in Charlotte's poorer neighborhoods would be closed with the remaking of the Double Oaks community north of I-277.

The area now has a public swimming pool where free lessons are provided.

It's an issue that reverberates, he said. One public pool can mean a summer activity or too much idle time. It can mean “a lifetime of opportunity,” he said Saturday at the Youth Violence Forum at New Life Fellowship Church.

The panel discussion, studded with local leaders and celebrities, had been planned for awhile. But it came less than two weeks after two teens – both in trouble before – were gunned down by a third over a long-standing feud that started in junior high over a girl.

About 50 people, mostly adults, were at the forum Saturday, a disappointing result, organizers said. They hoped more young people would attend to discuss how the growing violence can be prevented. “With the recent killings, the kids are scattered; they're afraid,” said Laura Fritzky, one of the organizers.

The violence is testing new police Chief Rodney Monroe, who has made battling youth violence a priority. Five other teens under age 18 have been killed in Charlotte shootings this year. Maj. Vicki Foster, who was on the panel, said the new chief is reorganizing the department to focus on the problem.

The forum was hosted by Stay Alive Past 25, a group formed by Jean Rodgers, whose son was a homicide victim.