Petersburg introduces gang violence program

Posted by Colby Rogers - email

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - State and local leaders are ramping up efforts to get a grip on gang violence in Petersburg through prevention and intervention.

Attorney General Bob McDonnell and Petersburg Police Chief John Dixon are leading the prevention initiatives. They're hoping to introduce a program to the streets of Petersburg where gang activity is clearly a reality.

Four years ago, a federal grant allowed Richmond and three other cities chosen by the Justice Dept. to be models for the Gang Reduction and Intervention Program. In short time, the benefits of the GRIP program could be seen in the numbers as Richmond quickly dropped from the 5th most-violent city to the 49th.

Petersburg Police and community members are now striving for their own tangible results.

The first step is the hardest - and one the city has accomplished: admitting it has a problem with its youth and gangs.  The first step towards a solution is education and prevention.

"It's much better to prevent the crime and save victims and keep people out of gangs than it is to convince them to get out of gangs once they're in them," Attorney General McDonnell said at a GRIP meeting Tuesday.

That starts with community involvement, officials say, through after school programs, mentoring, job placement and training - all healthy and safe alternatives to life's tough lessons on the streets.

In the coming months, leaders will be applying for federal funding and are hoping the community will donate money to get the program up and running.

Officials stress there is no quick fix to gang activity and that it requires time and commitment.

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