Mother hopes new gang initiative will save lives

New initiative just announced by sheriff, local ministers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Operation PIE, or Prevention Intervention and Enforcement, is the new program announced by Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford that brings the Sheriff's Office together with local ministers to deal with gang violence.

The program aims to focus on 100 kids between the ages of 10 to 15 who are at a high risk to commit crimes and possibly join gangs, based on the criteria of looking at kids from five years ago who are now in trouble.

The real question though is whether or not parents believe a program led by ministers and police would have helped the 1,000 kids the sheriff pointed out, 200 of whom are in jail or prison, 800 who've been arrested and the 14 that are dead.

One woman, who asked not to be identified and whose son was recently killed by gang violence, said she looked for help or a program like this years ago.

"I asked for help when he was a young teen," the mother said. "I was turned down."

She said her son was not always bad. She said she asked the state attorney's office for help and they said they couldn't do anything because he hadn't broken the law and he wasn't in the system.

"They told me, unfortunately, I had to wait until he was in the system. (That's) too late," The mother said.

That same scenario is exactly what the sheriff and group of minsters are trying to avoid. They want to get help to these kids before they become violent.

The sheriff would not say whom they are targeting, only that some of these kids have already witnessed murders or assaults, and some are just starting out in gangs.

The mother who once looked for help is hoping this program works and other families don't have to suffer the same loss she did.

"A lot of people are just talking about what they are going to do, but until you do it, actions speak louder than words. You just can't (talk) with this generation, now you have to prove to them that you're serious," the mother said.

State Attorney Angela Corey also spoke up about the sheriff's plan. She applauds him and the ministers for their work. Corey said that by the time her office sees these kids, it's too late.

"We are going the toughest on the violent criminals that need to be off the streets to protect our citizens while still giving nonviolent, first-time, offenders a chance to preserve their clean records," Corey said.

But Corey said she is seeing a disturbing trend that needs to be addressed

"My biggest concern is how violent young women are becoming. So we are working on some initiatives with that," Corey said.

In the end the real question is whether or not the families involved think a program like this would really work, and the mother who spoke to News4Jax thinks so, if they start early.

"He found the gangs in jail, and it just continued on the street," tohe mother said.

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