Activism and community involvement continue to take shape at Palm Beach Co.

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DELRAY BEACH, Fla – You might not see activists marching through the streets of Palm Beach County, but there is movement behind the scenes. The Inner City Innovators group, which mentors at-risk youth, continues to expand its reach and, as they say, “brings hope to the neighborhood”.

Getting to know people and listening is what Ricky Aiken does. His team, Inner City Innovators, is made up of young men and women like those they engage with in their neighborhood, the Tamarind Corridor at the north end of West Palm Beach.

“Most of our community efforts involve recruiting young men between the ages of 13 and 24 to see how our mentoring services can benefit them,” said Norman Austin, director of programs and member of Inner City Innovators.

The group’s mission is to show young men at risk that there is more to life than surviving on the streets.

“I think some of the biggest concerns young men face are finding a sustainable future, finding a future that isn’t trapped in the one community you’ve known all your life,” said Ricky Aiken, founder of Inner City Innovators. .

Part of that change, Aiken explains, is understanding how to react and interact with the police.

“When you think of the word, you know, police, there are two different things that come to mind; If you come from better socio-economic conditions, you think of allies and people who are there to serve and protect. But, when you come from communities like ours, you think of a threat, you think it’s someone you need to watch out for, ”Aiken said.

Perceptions the West Palm Beach Police Department is working to change. Every month, the department holds community meetings in different parts of the city to engage with residents and get their feedback and concerns.

“I believe every police chief in this country realizes that this is a very important part of our job, to be able to have a relationship of trust with the community,” said Chief Frank Adderley of the department. West Palm Beach Police Station.

Chief Adderley who arrived in the department in mid-2019 says it’s a two-way street. The chief says one of the main obstacles to protecting communities is the refusal of eyewitnesses to cooperate, especially when it comes to violent crimes.

“How do you watch someone murder your relative, you fall asleep at night knowing you haven’t done anything to close this case?” Adderley said, referring to the 10 homicide cases opened in the city this year, 7 of which have eyewitnesses.

Aiken agrees that there is a need for change not only from the police, but also from the community and that includes more young black men who become police officers.

“We have a youngster in our program who is training to become a police officer,” he added.

West Palm Beach Police have worked to increase the diversity of the force over the years. Since 2019, the percentage of minority officers in the department has increased by 5% to reach a total of 40% in 2021.

Inner City Innovators said they have expanded their mentoring services to Riviera Beach and are working to relocate to Lake Worth Beach.

“Real change happens when the people who need it lead it. But we can’t do it alone, ”Aiken said.


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