ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — An increase in recent violent crime in Rockford pushed community members to come up with solutions. Aldermen approved an agreement for a partnership focused on crime reduction by prevention.

The agreement will aim to establish a strategy on crime reduction and prevention. Denver Bitner, pastor and development officer for Northwest Neighbors, said that it is awful to see how much pain and grief families go through because of the violence.

He added that the community’s youth is where the change can begin.

“We’ve been working about three years, doing lots of youth kinds of programming, as well as the issues that are facing that side,” Bitner said.

Northwest Neighbors is a fairly new organization on Rockford’s Northwest side. They collaborate with businesses, residents and congregations to uplift the neighborhood. They are now getting the help of the city.

“Working together with funding from the city, we’re looking to really expand our impact on the neighborhood and particularly upon youth who are in the neighborhood as well,” Bitner said.

Their mission is essential, especially with the rise in crime from teens. Six teens as young as 13 and 14-years old were involved in a carjacking earlier this month. The victim said that the teens approached him, hit him multiple times and then took his car. Five out of the six suspects were caught on foot, according to the police.

Bitner said that it takes the whole community to bring down violent incidents like these.

“Change takes leadership, and leadership doesn’t always come from the older folks,” Bitner said. “Leadership comes from the younger folks. When they begin to model some of the ways of engaging in healthy behaviors in your neighborhood, then others follow them.”

Their budget is $81,000, which includes $50,000 from the city, according to Bitner.