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City Council Members Introduce 'Stop The Violence' Initiative

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Two members of Pittsburgh's City Council have introduced a new bill to cut down on gun violence.

The bill is called "Stop the Violence" and will increase funding for violence protection.

"From the day I took office until the end of last year, 604 of our loved ones were murdered in this city," said Councilman Ricky Burgess of District 9. "Over 80 percent of them were murdered with guns."

The numbers tell a grim reality, but the challenge remains, what can the city do to change them?

"Today in City Council, we announced the Stop the Violence initiative, it is a new prevention program that will strategize and organize all of the city efforts to launch prevention programs in the city of Pittsburgh."

The first step: paying for prevention. On Wednesday councilman Burgess and Lavelle will ask to amend the city's proposed budget to include $500,000 for the city's Group Violence Initiative, which focuses on a grassroots approach to stopping the violence.

"In public health, we look at violence, and particularly gun violence as a public health issue," said Dr. Jaren Hacker of the Allegheny County Health Department. We look at violence as if it was a disease, and as part of that we're looking at how to stop it from being contagious."

Now, Pittsburgh Police are a big part of this new initiative, but so is outreach. In fact, when you talk to organizers, they say that outreach into the community may well be the key.

"A lot of times when there's a big event downtown, you'll see people who have the outreach shirts on," said Cornell Jones of Group Violence Outreach. "Those are people we are part of outreach teams for volunteers who will intervene before law enforcement even gets involved."

Burgess believes with the right combination of police, community and social service agencies, the increase in spending will make a big difference.

"This has worked in the years that we have done it," said Burgess. "Now we're going to expand it. On the news, all you hear about is the kid that's been shot. You don't hear about all the lives we've saved. It takes all of us working on every kid one at a time."

City Council will take its final vote on the budget increase next week.

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