How to ‘Stop the Gun Violence?’ Group outlines actions for positive change

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Fourteen-year-old Jerome Ward Jr. is searching for solutions to end the violence in Rochester that’s cutting lives too short.

Many kids his age are turning to guns and violence. He believes they need more role models.

“I think they just need a role model. Or just someone to look up to. Like a father. They need more father figures in their lives,” Ward Jr. said.

He attended a Stop the Gun Violence town hall meeting with his dad Monday. This meeting aims to come up with solutions that will help to get kids off the streets and get them the help that they need.

For months, the City of Rochester has been under a violence state of emergency in response to a surge in shootings.

Monday night’s meeting — presented by Faith Leaders Roundtable, Pastors on Point, Faith Alliance, and Baptist Minister’s Alliance — was another step being taken to tackle the crisis. Pastors, police, and representatives from the school district and anti-violence groups were all at this meeting.

Coming together against violence isn’t new, indeed. People are frustrated and want change.

One parent who attended the meeting believes it’s important that everyone step up to help curb the violence and wants his son to be a part of that change.

“We’re here to help in any way we can in the community to help stop the violence as well as be positive lights,” said Jerome Ward with Chisel Collective LLC Youth advocates program — Jerome Jr.’s father..

Another parent of five, ranging in age from 19 to 3, believes kids need something positive to keep themselves busy. Naishah Ebanks explains there is a strong connection between unemployment and gun violence. Her 19-year-old son is out of school and can’t find a job.

“And one of the big things with gun violence is lack of income. They try to get right and they can’t get right because they are out of jobs,” Ebanks said.

Parents like Ebanks want answers about what is being done to help kids put down their guns.

So, I asked the group, what is the action that is taking place tonight? What is new that is being done here tonight?

Dr. Shirley Green, city Commissioner of Recreation and Human Services, says her staff is trying to help people address issues they may be experiencing so they don’t escalate or lead to other problems.

“In four of our recreation centers, we will have social emotional support in addition to family therapy,” Green said.

Rochester Deputy Police Chief Keith Stith says they are looking to reclaim our neighborhoods and unite residents.

One approach is a new violence prevention program that involves input form the community. The details are still being worked out.

“That information is going to be put together and we are going to come up with a violence prevention program. So that never happened in the city, but it takes time,” Stith said.

This group of faith leaders and law enforcement will focus on uniting communities to march through neighborhoods to prevent gun violence. They will also provide mental health and mentoring support to kids. They are also interested in bridging the gap between the community and police.