Safe Summer Lexington aims to save lives with nonviolence training

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The official start of winter is still days away, but a group in Lexington is already thinking about how to promote a safer, less violent summer.

Safe Summer Lexington is a coalition of "citizens, agency representatives, and members of city government" whose stated goals for violence prevention include:

1. A significant increase in summer and part-time employment opportunities for disadvantaged youth and

2. Serious nonviolence training for adults working with youth from at-risk neighborhoods and potential youth leaders from those communities.

That second goal - nonviolence training - is the focus of workshops that began in November and will continue through February, followed by a certification workshop in March for people who complete the Pace e Bene Engage study program.

Candidates meet twice a month, discussing how to stop the cycle of violence that produced a record 28 homicides in Lexington in 2017 and another 23 so far this year.

"It's spreading across gender and status, it doesn't matter a person's economic background or even family structure in this day and time," said Pastor Keith Tyler of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.

Retired psychologist Kerby Neill said through non-violence techniques, young people and adults can learn to de-escalate conflicts before they spiral out of control.

"How to listen in a different way, how to respond in a way that doesn't provoke another response back but lets the other person know what the impact of their behavior is and how they can change it in a constructive way," Neill said.

The organization's leaders hope such conflict resolution skills will be shared in schools and with sports teams and youth groups, in the hope of a more peaceful Lexington in 2019.

"You can put down the gun," Tyler said. "You can put down your anger and pick up hope and love and forgiveness."

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