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Columbus Pastor Vows To Fight Sale Of Violent Video.

Columbus recorded its 99th and 100th homicides of the year during the week-end. The victims were both teen-agers, 19 and 14 years old. Against the backdrop of violence, a Leonard Avenue church and an established social service agency are working to stop the spread of a locally-produced video depicting street fights.

Its early evening on a recent week-day as Pastor Harold Hudson of the Calvary Tremont Baptist Church opens a meeting room. Dozens of adults and adolescents, some from the Neighborhood House agency, gather to watch a video that has circulated on Columbus streets and at corner stores for the last several months. "Its one of the most horrible things I ever saw in my life. And I decided right at that moment that we really needed to do something to counteract it. All of our children are not like that and we need to do something to keep them from becoming involved with gangs and activities like that." Says Reverend Hudson.

Pastor Hudson says he first saw the video titled: "The 614, Volume 1," several months ago. Now, he says, its too popular.

The video is laced with vulgarities and slurs. Its edited in quick cuts. It shows a sequence of fights in streets and shopping center parking lots featuring groups of young men, and in one scene, young women. After viewing the video, groups of eight to ten brainstorm ways to curb its popularity. 31 year old Ron Scroggins describes the range of reactions among his group. "Shock, they want to know why there is so much anger in our youth, embarrassment about what was going on, sad."

Scroggins works at the non-profit Neighborhood House on Atcheson Street. The agency, Columbus Police, and Pastor Hudson want to find effective ways to curb sales, production, and distribution of the video. "To make our society better, our community safer, and our young folk know that there is an alternative to just dying on the streets." Says Hudson.

But, Pastor Hudson and his allies face an uphill fight. Among those in the crowd is a Johnson Park Middle School student. Caahira Locke is an eighth grader. She claims she knows each site depicted in the video, each street address, the parking lots in shopping areas. She says most of her classmates have also seen the video and she tells how that can lead to problems and possibly more fights. "Basically, everybody wants to see, oh that's my friend, or that's my sister, or my friend was on there or I was on there. So everybody wants to see their face. Everybody wants to see their friend's face. Basically, everybody wants to see what's going on. People are nosy. Most of us young kids are nosy. They want to see who fought, this and that. So, they find a way to get the D-V-D. And everyone has one in their house or just about." Says Locke.

Columbus Police Detective Thaddeus Alexander of the Strategic Response Bureau confirms the eighth-graders statements. He has spent the last 20 years combating gangs. He too fears the violent videos can lead to an escalation of youth violence and possible gang involvment. While the video is legal and cheap, about five or six dollars, Alexander vows prosecution if any links to gangs are established. "The response of the police department is very natural. We want to get the message out that this is not a positive type of viewing for young people or even older people if they are involved in criminal activity. You know alot of this is very violent type behavior." Says Alexander.

Alexander adds that the consequence of escalating violence is often deadly force. He tells the group of ten young men who recently were shot and killed in street violence.

Tom Borgerding, WOSU News