City invests in program to help transition, relocate young gang members

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Ten people were shot over the weekend, three of them killed, and as Rochester Police step up specialized details in the neighborhoods hardest hit by the violence, the City of Rochester is investing in programs to try and lure young people away from a life of crime. 

Vic Saunders is a special advisor to Rochester Mayor Malik Evans on Violence Intervention and Prevention. He tells News10NBC that over the last few weeks, his teams have stepped up street outreach.

“Being out in the streets, in the community, going to the R-centers, talking to parents,” he says.

The hope is to keep kids busy by connecting them to programs in their own neighborhoods.

“Depending on the needs of those young people, we try and find situations that they can thrive in,” Saunders says.

But there are plenty of teens and young adults who are not thriving, who’ve had run-ins with the law or who are already affiliated with gangs. When street teams can reach them, they connect them to programs like the Community Resource Collaborative. 

“We want to make sure that not only are they getting a job skill set, but if they have food insecurity, they’re taken care of. If they have transportation needs, that’s taken care of through Uber. We want to make sure we have childcare, washer and dryer, full working bathroom, hygiene products. Let’s take care of our human and our basic needs first,” explains CRC Executive Director Tina Paradiso. 

If a person can’t stay in Rochester for safety reasons, CRC will relocate them. If they can stay, the nonprofit will help meet whatever needs they have to choose a different path. 

That starts with giving participants a paying job.

“We actually do manufacturing, we do embroidery and we do direct-to-garment printing,” Paradiso explains. 

The men and women who participate also get group therapy, tutoring, art therapy and other transitional help while they’re on the job. 

“Sometimes they’re young people that might be beefing on the streets, but they come in here and realize they actually have a lot in common,” Paradiso explains. 

Many times, it’s the stability they need to make a different life choice.

But even if it’s not, “success is maintaining communication. So, I don’t ever judge. We have to do what we have to do.  What I want to continue to do is stay in contact with you because I want to see you alive,” Paradiso says.

CRC was awarded $133,333 by the City of Rochester to do this work and an additional $25,000 for workforce development.