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Exclusive: Newark Joins Other Major Cities To Establish First National Association Of Community-Based Violence Prevention Programs

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Newark, New Jersey is playing a major role in a first of its kind initiative that aims to help prevent violence in communities across the U.S.

In the center of Newark - call it the intersection of public safety and public health - is a refreshed approach to community policing that's making a mark on the national map.

"We're at an inflection point," said Aqeela Sherrills, from the Newark Community Street Team, which is supported by and often responds to the same scenes as the Newark Police Department.

It's a crucial crossroads specifically in communities of color, Sherrills told CBS2's Jessica Layton.

On Thursday, Sherrills joined leaders of major cities across the country, announcing the first ever National Association of Community-Based Violence Prevention Programs.

"The focus of it is to lift up complementary strategies to policing that are working in cities as a real solution to the 'reimagine public safety' conversation," Sherrills said. "All of our respective cities have seen huge decreases in violence and crime because of our work."

It's a collaboration with places like Chicago, Oakland and Los Angelis that, in the wake of massive protests and racial tensions, have changed their approach to achieving peace on the streets.

"This is 21st century community safety, and you can't bring community safety from the outside in. It has to be grown from the inside out," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is helping to lead the way.

Last year, the city diverted 5% of the police budget to the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery to better get to the root of issues like homelessness and mental health in the community.

"You reduce the need to have a cop on every corner," Baraka said.

The safest neighborhoods are not the ones with police on every corner, he said.

"These are neighborhoods with solid families, with jobs that are available, with decent education systems, where social services are provided," said Baraka.

"We put tremendous amount of stress and pressure on our cops to be counselors and therapists and teachers and everything. They don't have the capacity to do it," said Sherrills.

The next step is lobbying for money given to the state through the American Rescue Plan to help support this community-based work.

Sherrills said, given the conflict we saw last summer, the government can't afford not to invest in this cause.

CBS2's Jessica Layton contributed to this report.

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