JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Some local residents say violence is destroying their communities, and black-on-black crimes are happening all too often. Now there's an effort to try to help young people in Jacksonville in hopes of curbing the violence.
The group Operation Save our Sons announced plans Monday for Save our Sons Week next week.
Organizers said this year they wanted to increase the initiative from a day to a week -- an effort not only to reduce violence but to improve quality of life and education and clean up the city.
"The face of crime in Jacksonville is the faces you see right here: African-American males have become the face of crime," said Pastor John Guns, of St. Paul Church.
Guns joined with other community members Tuesday at the church on the Northside. He said he spoke to young people recently and saw a trend.
"Fourth-graders who have sat in the back of a police car, fourth-graders who look up to their siblings and relatives who have been incarcerated, fourth-graders who have a reputation in school as the bad kid," Guns said.
He said he's trying to make a change.
"I almost came to tears as I tried to help them understand the choices they make as fourth-graders can impact their lives as young men," Guns said.
William Dailey, 17, has been helped by Save Our Sons, and he hasn't been in trouble since his arrest earlier in his teen years.
"Save Our Sons has done nothing but help me with school and decision making, because there's a lot of temptation out there," Dailey said.
The event calls for people of all faiths and races to come together. Organizers said the event is bigger than just one side of town.
Some of the events for the week include a teacher appreciation worship service at St. Paul at 10:15 a.m. Sunday, and on Monday there will be a city-wide forum with the mayor, sheriff, school superintendent and state attorney.
Saving Our Sons and Saving Our Families will be held at 7 p.m. May 20. On May 23, there will be a ride-along with police.
Save Our Sons Summit will take place at Ribault High School on May 24. And on May 25, there will be a male-only worship service called Sonrise at St. Paul, followed by a father-son cookout.
People like Dailey hope others get involved. He has a message for young people.
"Just try to fulfill your dreams, respect your parents and go to school," Dailey said.
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