JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – City leaders, community members and anti-crime organizations hope the Cure Violence program will succeed in reducing crime and homicides in Jacksonville.
"We are losing our children. If it hasn’t happened to you, it’s happening to your next-door neighbor. We (have) got to do something, so whatever they bring on, I’m with it," said Beverly McClain, head of Families of Slain Children.
The plan is to treat violence as an illness and encourage so-called violence interrupters, people from the community who understand the neighborhood issues, to build trust with the community.
Violence interrupters stress that they are not affiliated with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and they do not work with JSO. They’re here in the community to build trust and relationships with those who live here.
"Many of us who are involved in the program, we assisted in destroying our communities," said violence interrupter Abdul Muhammad.
He says he can identify with those at risk because he’s been there.
"It’s imperative that we get back and try to help rebuild the same community that we played a part in destroying," Muhammad said.
Kim Varner is another violence interrupter who lost one child to violence in the community and has another child in prison.
"I’m a parent," Varner said. "When you’re a parent and lose a loved one, that automatically makes you want to get involved."
The program launched in two zones, which have been identified as the most violent ZIP codes.
Zone 1 – covers downtown, Springfield and the eastside.
Zone 5 -- covers Northwest Jacksonville, New Town and Baldwin.
City leaders stress the program is not through law enforcement; it’s a community program, one that has proven to work to reduce violence in other cities.