KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Street violence amongst teens is a problem that the East Knoxville community says it can no longer ignore.
Local residents say far too many young people are dying at the hands of their peers in drive-bys and gang-related shootings.
A local church is now spearheading an effort to stop the violence before another young person loses their life.
Hundreds of people packed Overcoming Believers Church in East Knoxville for the Stop the Violence Forum to discuss ways they can help combat street violence that leaves so many local teenagers dead.
"We cannot endure this level of violence that we are experiencing," said Knoxville City Councilman Daniel Brown of the 6th District.
Daryl Arnold, pastor of Overcoming Believers, says something has to change to save the lives of East Knoxville teens.
Having conducted so many funeral for local youth in recent years that he's lost count, he says the community must step up to keep kids out of gangs and on the right path.
"There's a box in front of me and I'm consoling a family. It's extremely devastating. But the saddest part is that it's not as painful as it used to be because it happens so often," said Pastor Arnold.
Attendees heard suggestions from a panel of local men like Kwabena Miller, who've seen their fair share of street violence growing up in the area.
"I was involved in gangs from the age of a teenager," said Miller, of Knoxville, who spent 11 years in jail for robbery and gun charges.
Miller says gang life is a path no one has to live.
"What does it take? What does it take for the people to wake up and see that the streets don't work? That what you're doing is not going to work," said Miller.
They want to prevent others from taking the same potentially deadly path.
"My prayer is that people don't die before they see the light," said Miller.
Residents at the forum suggested becoming better mentors to the young people in this community to help fight the problem.
"We have to stand up as surrogate parents for those that don't have parents," said Pastor Arnold.
They also suggested providing positive activities to keep them out of trouble and off the streets.
"I charge the churches and city and the community leaders to come up with some things where young people can do something that is constructive because idle time is evil time," said Arnold.
Church members hope to host another forum in the coming weeks.