PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) – A nationally-known celebrity is hoping to transform the city of Petersburg. Trey Songz is launching an organization to show the city's worst criminal offenders how to achieve success.
Trey has started a program called "Songz For Peace" and is looking to start it up in Petersburg. While the city's criminal statistics are improving, he wants the young people who call Petersburg home, to know that it's possible to live your dreams without living a life of crime.
Trey is known for his signature sound. The Grammy nominated, R&B artist and Petersburg native performed in front of a packed house at the Landmark Theatre during a stop on his recent tour.
We sat down with the 25-year-old and talked about what life was like growing up on these streets.
He was born to a teenage mother and his father was not always in his life. He credits the women in his life for helping him stay on the right path.
"I had a beautiful mother," said Songz. "My mother was very much not going to allow me to become what so many young black men become."
Today he's trying to give that same type of support system to the kids in his hometown by creating Songz For Peace.
"Well, Songz For Peace is an initiative we take within the youth we strive for them to get higher education," said Songz.
Under the organization, Trey would host a panel discussion with other successful Petersburg residents. Together, in front of an audience, they'd share their success stories and encourage those attending to achieve their goals.
"We strive for peace within them because if you think about the numbers and the murders and the homicides within our people and within our communities and the numbers of the people dying and the numbers of the people killing are getting lower and lower," said Songz.
A quick walk through the streets of Petersburg with Police Chief John Dixon and we found this to be true.
"A lot of that came about because we've changed how we do things," said Dixon.
Chief Dixon is now in his third year with the Petersburg Police Department and he shared with me how the city has changed within just the past year.
From January to the beginning of August in 2009 there were 55 reported individual robberies, 400 reported burglaries and two murders.
Compare that to the same time period this year. There were only 37 individual robberies, 273 burglaries and six murders. Overall crime in this city appears to be going down.
But Chief Dixon and Trey Songz feel there's still more work to be done and through Songz For Peace both hope to soon join forces.
"Certainly he is of celebrity status, definitely in the Petersburg area for sure and nationwide and I think anytime that celebrities can deliver a positive message to our young people they're paying attention, they're listening," said Dixon.
With so many young eyes looking up to Songz he says it's a great opportunity to share his journey and offer encouragement.
"Petersburg isn't much different from any inner city," said Songz. "Kids selling drugs, using drugs early, violence."
Songz says it's important to get that message of self-worth to young people as soon as possible.
"As a child it's so important to be told these things and so important for someone to let you know that you're special because children are sensitive. Children grow up and believe what they hear," said Songz.
And what they're hearing are sounds of a success story from someone who came from almost nothing. Trey and Chief Dixon hope together they can continue to transform the city.
Songz for Peace is still in the works here in Petersburg as Trey finishes up the last leg of his tour. He plans to not only work with the police department but the local high schools as well. He's already held these panel discussions in several other cities.