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Rochester

Local Program Works to Prevent Gang Violence

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Rochester: Local Program Works to Prevent Gang Violence
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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is pushing for legislation against gang violence. She announced Wednesday that she wants to introduce as many as six different bills.

One of the proposed bills is a $1 billion bill for law enforcement agencies that would help fund large-scale gang investigations through grants.

The other bills include preventative programs, like mentoring for youth.

"If a child doesn't have the opportunity to live in a crime-free atmosphere and a child is being recruited into a gang at the age of 12 or 13, we are not giving that child an opportunity to reach his or her full potential. And we need to do much better by them," Gillibrand said.

A local program in Rochester is working to resolve gang conflicts in our community. Its mission is to help prevent violence and bring about change.

You can call it a circle of trust.

"A lot of our young boys don't have positive role models and can't meet their basic needs," said Mike Brooks, youth intervention specialist and group leader.

A total of 65 men belong to the Good Fellas group, ranging in ages from 12 to 21.

"Kids who are in trouble and have problems with school, kids who affiliate themselves with gangs or are in gangs and want to get out and make better decisions for themselves," said Brooks.

The group started up five months ago and regularly meets to discuss real issues that surround their community and everyday lives.

"I had two kids in there from two different gangs that had problems with each other and had a fight or a shoot out that prior week. But when they came go to Good Fellas there was no fight at all," Brooks added.

With a number of gang-related crimes this year alone, Pathways to Peace Director Victor T. Saunders believes one solution is within groups like Good Fellas.

"You can never have enough assistance to give young people other alternatives, other resources, within the community that will lead them away from gang involvement," said Saunders.

Although Senator Gillibrand hopes to bring more preventative programs to the state, Saunders said it helps to support the ones that are already here.

"We have some pretty great programs in the city doing some wonderful things. But every year due to grants and things of that nature, even though they may be successful, they might not, through funding, be able to help those young people," said Saunders.

Financial support is always a need. In the meantime, the Good Fellas group will continue its mission, teaching men how to trust in their own ability to make the right choices.

"It's all about choice. Whatever decision I make today will be with me for the rest of my life," said Brooks.

Pathways to Peace

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