UPDATED: Sunday, August 10, 2014 --- 9:38 p.m.
Youth leaders in Beloit are calling for change after a recent string of violence.
Two separate shootings last week left a 16-year-old and 20-year-old dead.
Reverend Keith Stamper grew up in Beloit and says the violence now is worse than he's ever seen.
"The problem with this gang issue is we put it on the back burner so much that now it's an issue, because now we're losing lives," he said.
Stamper attended vigils for both deceased men last week, and hopes he can work to stop the need for any more vigils or memorials.
"We're hurting as a community right now," he said.
Stamper believes Beloit needs to better mentoring and parenting.
"Too often we see parents raising their kids as friends, and then they let the streets raise them. That's the deadly problem," he said.
Those sentiments are also felt by Alicia Berger, who started the Beloit and Midwest Stop the Violence Movement.
"It's young teens doing this and I think it's because they don't know any other way," Berger said.
Stamper believes people in the community need to reach out to teens directly.
"We have war in the streets and we've got too many people that are scared to go to the streets and show their presence and let [these kids] know that they can be somebody... we've got to come out of our comfort zones and let them know that we're here for you," he said.
Posted Thursday, August 7, 2014 --- 8:55 p.m.
City leaders in Beloit are speaking out after a violent week that left two young men dead.
Twenty-year-old Hykyme Hayes died in a shooting early Thursday morning, making for the city's seventh murder of the year and the second in less than a week. On Saturday, 16-year-old Jose Carruthers-Paramo was shot and killed at Summit Park.
"Don't have any kind of good explanation for it. There doesn't seem to be any pattern here, there's no gang war... it's an incredibly horrible string of separate crimes," said City Manager Larry Arft.
Arft is calling for better mentoring programs and better leadership from parents.
"Hopefully parents will see this and will be sitting down with their children, having a talk with them," he said.
City Councilman David Luebke wants people to speak up and report problems before more lives are lost.
"It's far better to act on it and notify somebody in authority and have nothing happen, than to not notify them and have a disaster or something very tragic happen," Luebke said.
Wherever the changes comes from, leaders and members of the mourning community say it must start now.
"Hopefully that will bring this sad chapter in this city's history to a close," Arft said.