WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A string of violent crimes has many in Wilmington how we can stop the violence, and an ex-convict believes he has the solution.
Curtis Poole is a convicted murderer who has served two prison sentences. Now he’s using his life as an example of the mistakes that today’s youth don’t need to make.
"I started getting in trouble straight out of high school at 18 or 19 years old. I'm 45 now, and I never had anybody or any resources in my life to help me change," Poole said.
Coming from a single parent household Poole says he turned to the boys in the hood for a sense of belonging without knowing or caring about the consequences.
"It wasn't like it is now," Poole said. "There wasn't any initiation, no shooting or you had to go rob somebody to get initiated or get jumped in. There was none of that. Mostly it was fist fighting."
Poole says after multiple convictions, including one for second degree murder, one day he woke up and decided to make a change. However, like many who lead a life of crime he found it difficult to find support.
"Take them out of the gangs and what are they going to do then," Poole said. "Guys need resources and they need help to find out what their likes and dislikes are and what they can excel then."
Poole is now dedicating his life to reaching out to at-risk youth, and he says knowledge is the key to keeping kids out of street gangs.
"If they want to be a firefighter and they're in middle school then we need to find out what it takes to be a firefighter," Poole said. "Sports aren’t going to do it. Educating and telling them that you're proud of them and showing them a different way to go see it. You've got to start young. If you wait until you get to age 17 chances are they're not going to make it because it's already instilled in them."
That message has already gotten through to at least one child: Poole's 12-year-old son Chance.
"I won't do that in the future," Chance said. "I won't end up like the rest of the guys out here in the streets."
You can hear more of Curtis Poole's message on Wednesday nights at Wilmington City Hall, where he and members of the Prayers for the Port City group pray and discuss ways to combat crime.