YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - It could be considered a cultural epidemic and it's plaguing Youngstown, kids killing kids and black on black crime.

Ashley Chatman, whose two cousins Jaron Roland and Dary Woods were brutally murdered and their bodies found in a burning car says, "They're all killing each other for senseless things."

Poverty, gangs and drugs often play a major role in the violent crimes.  Glen "Big Poppa" Williams of Youngstown says, "It's not just the respect issue, it's the money issue, it's about what they don't have at home.  Children going to school with no food, or not even having water at home or having Kool-Aid with no water or having sugar with no Kool-Aid."

Of 19 murders in the city of Youngstown so far this year, 21% of the victims were teenagers and Prosecutor Jay Macejko says, "The victims and the offenders are getting younger."

Fourteen of the 19 murder victims were black males, nearly 100% of the suspects were also black males, and their weapon of choice, guns.

In fact, the city of Youngstown, with assistance from the University of Cincinnati's Policing Institute, began looking at these deadly trends several years ago.  Prosecutor Macejko tells 21 News, "That is something that we did take a look at back in 2008 when we were preparing for the implementation of Operation Cease Fire.  And not only did our rates of violent crimes stand out significantly among other peer cities, but our rates of black on black violent offenses stood out."

Macejko points out that it's not just an inner city problem but a societal one because violent crime not only destroys lives but robs communities of economic growth.  The city of Youngstown has more than 28 street gangs according to the Youngstown field office of the FBI, and some of those gangs have now moved south and put down roots in Boardman.

So what's the answer?  While the city's violent crime rate is at it's lowest in decades, people are still dying in the most brutal crimes and city leaders believe the problem starts and ends at home. 

Prosecutor Macejko says, "If you recall, we had an ordinance called parental responsibility and a nearly identical ordinance was overturned in the Cleveland area upon appeal, and so we did repeal our ordinance and we've really been searching and trying to find a way to force responsibility on parents when they're not doing their job." 

There's often an attitude on the streets of killed or be killed, but a felon turned mentor is living proof that you can survive and succeed.

Glen Williams says, "It was a choice that I wanted to change, it was something that I wanted to do for myself."

Williams who is also known as Big Poppa runs the program One Step to Life on Southern Boulevard, and the former drug dealer, who spent 10 years in prison for a strong armed robbery, is now mentoring others; encouraging them to get an education and make an honest living.

He says we all need to stop judging young people by their appearance and their attitude and instead encourage them to want more out of life.  "It's about planting that positive seed of life and it's not easy," Williams said.

If you know someone who could benefit from Glen Williams program One Step to Life, Inc., the office and job information center is located at 3610 Southern Boulevard.  The telephone number is (330) 781-7150.