Rockford organization secures city funding to reduce youth crime

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) – A recent increase in violent crime in Rockford has community members looking for solutions. The aldermen approved a partnership agreement focused on reducing crime through prevention.

The agreement will aim to establish a crime reduction and prevention strategy. Denver Bitner, pastor and development worker for Northwest Neighbors, said it’s awful to see how much pain and grief families are going through because of the violence.

He added that the youth in the community are where change can begin.

“We’ve been working for about three years, doing a lot of youth programming, and the issues that face that side,” Bitner said.

Northwest Neighbors is a relatively new organization on the northwest side of Rockford. They work with businesses, residents and congregations to uplift the neighborhood. They are now receiving help from the city.

“By working with city funding, we’re looking to really expand our impact on the neighborhood and especially on the young people who are in the neighborhood as well,” Bitner said.

Their mission is essential, especially with the rise in delinquency among adolescents. Six teenagers aged 13 and 14 were involved in a carjacking earlier this month. The victim said the teenagers approached him, punched him repeatedly, then took his car. Five of the six suspects were arrested on foot, according to police.

Bitner said it takes the whole community to bring down violent incidents like these.

“Change requires leadership, and leadership doesn’t always come from older people,” Bitner said. “Leadership comes from the youngest. As they begin to model some of the ways to adopt healthy behaviors in your neighborhood, others follow suit.

Their budget is $81,000, including $50,000 from the city, according to Bitner.