News10NBC Investigates: What is it like to be a child in the city right now?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Darien Pabon dreams of being a professional soccer player.

“I like offense, but I’m really good at defense,” he said.

But as a 13-year-old in Rochester, he has to deal with a level of gun violence that most children don’t have to deal with. He was on North Clinton Avenue and heard the gunshots when a 3-year-old was shot in September.

BREAN: “What impact does it have on you?”
DARIEN: “It sometimes make me think that sometimes my friends could get hurt, my family, and maybe I could get hurt because of the usage of guns and all the violence going around.”

Darien’s mother says she’s trying to escape to the suburbs.

BREAN: “What do you worry about?”
IRMA PABON: “I worry that my 13-year-old and my 17-year-old get hurt, get shot.”

The first murder victim this year was a 14-year-old, killed on his way to a corner store. Seven murder victims are 18 or younger. 49 shooting victims are under 18.

A 4-year-old and a 3-year-old were shot sitting in a car. Last weekend, an 8-year-old witnessed his father murdered. Of the at least 20 homes shot up in the city this year, children were inside eight of them.

“You think of students who had gunshots go through their house. Even though someone may not have been hit, how comfortably can you sleep that night?” asked Tamara Sheppard, a social worker at the Rochester City School District.

Sheppard also counsels children at the Boys and Girls Club.

“The young ones are saying ‘I’m afraid,’” Sheppard said. “’I’m afraid to grow up. I’m afraid I’m going to get shot. I’m afraid that someone I know is going to get shot or killed.’ So it’s a very present thing that we have going on.”

Sheppard’s team mobilizes after every shooting because it probably affects one of their children.

BREAN: “One of the things I think about is they have to deal with all these problems and they still have to do their school work.”
SHEPPARD: “I think we are understanding that when kids are coming through that door we can’t act like nothing has happened and just throw a book in their face.”

Amiere Young is a straight-A student who loves to practice photography at the Flower City Arts Center.

“It’s good to be me,” she said. “Like, I have a good, supportive family. I have good, supportive friends.”

Her biggest worries are getting her homework done, doing well on tests and the environment. But she’s also aware of the gun violence in her neighborhood.

“I could be laying down and I just hear a boom,” she said. “Like you really wouldn’t know living in Rochester, it could be a firework or it could be, you know, a gun. I want people to be more thoughtful and more mindful of what they’re doing.”

BREAN: “If you could change one thing about your community, what would it be?”
DARIEN PABON: “It would probably be violence. I would not want violence to happen in our community. The happiest things is to making sure that my family [is] safe, I’m safe, my friends safe. Everyone that I love is safe. And I would love for everyone to be safe. Just point blank.”

Click here to watch our reporting on gun violence in the city, including the device we exposed that turns a semi-automatic gun into a machine gun.