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Group Violence Reduction Strategy reaches dozens of Baltimore residents at risk of violence

Group Violence Reduction Strategy reaches dozens of Baltimore residents at risk of violence
Group Violence Reduction Strategy reaches dozens of Baltimore residents at risk of violence 02:59

BALTIMORE -- Keko Thompson, 36, told WJZ he was struggling after his cousin was murdered last September.

"It was a hard pill for me to swallow, and to this day, it's still a hard pill for me to swallow," Thompson said. "They say God will take something from you and give you something in replacement."

Thompson said his life changed due to outreach from Youth Advocate Programs, which partners with the city to provide intensive outreach to those at risk of violent crime. 

It is part of Baltimore's Group Violence Reduction Strategy, a more holistic approach to the crime fight. 

The mayor's office said it has reduced homicides in West Baltimore and intends to expand its endeavors to other parts of the city this year. The Central, Eastern and Southern Districts will see GVRS by the end of the year.  

Since the beginning of the year, 67 people who are at risk of committing gun violence or becoming victims of it have been referred for outreach.

"I just want to thank God for giving me a chance—this second chance right here," Thompson said. 

Now, Thompson is driving a forklift. He has been holding down a job for the past six months. It's the longest job he's ever had. 

"I want this. This is what I want to do. I don't want that lifestyle anymore out on the streets," he said. "I've done it most of my life. The outcome that it's going to be is death or jail."

While homicides and non-fatal shootings are down overall, Baltimore leaders are still trying to get a handle on violence impacting juveniles, which has surged, alarming some members of the city council at a public safety oversight hearing Wednesday afternoon.

"Unfortunately, high levels of violence are affecting our young people, and it remains a very significant concern," council member and public safety chair Mark Conway said. 

Short-staffed police are now using their summer plan to provide more officers to the Inner Harbor where two teens were shot on Sunday night. 

That means 15 to 20 officers normally in administrative bureaus and other units will be assigned to downtown patrol.

"BPD has arrested more juveniles unfortunately for homicides and shootings than we ever have in our history," a police representative told council members.

Police said they have found 12 juveniles with Polymer80 ghost guns since the beginning of the year.

Although most violent crimes are down with the exception of auto thefts. 

Also, at the hearing, state's attorney Ivan Bates said he is working on a plan for citations for those who commit minor, quality-of-life crimes that his predecessor declined to prosecute.

"These citations will eventually lead to community service for a number of these low-level offenses…This way, we're not trying to lock up individuals," Bates said. "We're just saying we're going to hold you accountable."

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