DENVER — He was once a gang member. Now, 30 years later, Rev. Leon Kelly sits on the Denver sheriff’s advisory board and his efforts are making a difference in the fight against gang violence.
There were no gang-related homicides in Denver this year during what’s called the “90 Days Of Summer.”
During the same time In 2015, there were five gang-related deaths.
Kelly started a coalition of law enforcement, city officials, religious leaders, the FBI, NFL and business community to stand strong against gang violence — and it’s working.
Kelly, executive director of Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives, said the key to change is getting people to come together and not blame any one group for a problem.
“When people want to hold the police and the sheriff accountable for something they do, my question for this year is who’s going to hold the hood accountable?” Kelly said.
Those Kelly has recruited for the effort came together at the Highlands Ranch Golf Club to announce the progress being made in Denver’s east-side neighborhoods.
“We are really supportive of everything that Rev. Kelly has done,” Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman said.
Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock emphasized that everyone should take interest in the welfare of youth whether crime is a problem in their area or not.
“Our community is never going to grow or get out of any kind of situation if we don’t take care of our young people,” Spurlock said.
Law enforcement officers in the Denver metro area have been dedicated to reaching out to youth to connect and get through to them.
Their goal is to turn them away from violence and save lives. Officers attend events such as National Night Out, barbecues and other activities that provide at-risk youth with role models and alternatives.
Kelly is also working with members of the business community to focus on improving safety in areas where new development in downtown areas is bringing those from different cultures together.
Ed Beery of the Denver Executive Association said conflict and division between different cultures and groups of Americans is publicized, but equal attention should be placed on how people are working together.
“Look at all of the police officers here today,” Beery said. “The truth is we’re humanity, we’re here to get together and when we do it this is what can happen.”
Former gang members are also joining the effort. Daloyd Reynolds is a former gang member who helps youth stay on the right track at Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives.
He said the death of a family member spurred his decision to get out of the gang world.
“I knew at that point for the world to believe me,” he said. “I had to make a bold statement. I met old rival gang members I got up and embraced them and spoke to them. Some were shocked by it but I told them I’m serious.”
The next step is to continue the work in the community, making a difference one child at a time.