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Getting youths on the straight path, courtesy of a Chicago-style model

Bronx Times

To take on gun violence in the south Bronx, a think tank is curbing it Chicago-style.

The Center for Court Innovation has received a half-million dollar grant to combat violence among young people within the 40th Precinct, covering Mott Haven, Melrose and Port Morris.

A first in the Bronx, the approach adopts the CeaseFire Chicago initiative that’s seen a wave of success since it began there in 2000.

“The Bronx really needed this,” said Gloria Cruz, an anti-gun violence crusader who lobbied the City Council to bring the program to Mott Haven. “Mott Haven has the worst incidents of shootings and murders in the borough.”

The innovative approach treats the problem like a disease.

Through crime data, organizers pinpoint the source of the problem, or the “carriers” as they’re called. In this case young men ages 16 to 24 who are known to pack a gun.

To prevent the spread, organizers have enlisted a cadre of reformed gang members turned “violence interrupters.”

“These are folks from the south Bronx, that live in the south Bronx, that know the south Bronx,” said citywide organizer Sharon Ife Charles.

Keeping their ear to the ground when beefs are ready to pop off, violence interrupters serve as mediators, offering other ways to handle disputes.

But that aspect of the program is just one prong of the outreach.

The Center for Court Innovation will turn to clergy and nonprofits to spread a message of nonviolence. Barbeques, vigils and anti-gun posters are some steps taken to deal with gun violence.

“People have to take ownership of their community,” said Cruz.

The $500,000 grant came from the City Council’s Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, co-chaired by west Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera.

Formed in 2011, the task force sought to bring down a rise in shootings throughout the city.

The high-crime 40th Precinct covers a more troubled area of the Bronx, though overall crime there has dropped about 9%, according to statistics.

But the NYPD has not made a dent in gun-related crime.

There have been 46 people shot so far this year, the same number as a year ago.

And housing projects, according to Charles, are no strangers to gangs. Crews like the Killbrook Up, Cypress Boys and the Mudar Moore Gang terrorize them through drug dealing and gunfights.

The gun violence has claimed the lives of several young people, including 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan, killed by a stray bullet during a basketball game at Morrisania’s Forest Houses. Kemar Brooks, a 14-year-old shot by a stray bullet in Baychester’s Haffen Park.

With the new program now underway,Charles is already looking for more funding to bankroll the program through 2015.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or dcruz@cnglocal.com.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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