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Stopping the violence

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - As Warren deals with recent violence, Youngstown is making strides in lowering the city's homicide rate by 40 percent so far this year. The little more than a year old Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (C.I.R.V.) is being credited by the police chief for making a difference.

The aftermath of gang violence cannot be reversed.

"There is no rewind button on life," said Jaron Jackson, a Grafton Reintegration Center inmate.

Jackson, who is serving nine years in prison on gang, drugs and weapons charges, is trying to help put an end to the violence.

"Not only am I responsible for the death of an 11-year-old boy I'm also responsible for my co-defendant, who was a minor at the time, receiving 28 years to life," he said.

Back in 2005 when Jackson was 18 years old, he brought a gun to a gang fight outside a Cleveland recreation center.

"A guy grabbed the gun out of my pocket and  after the shots were fired, an 11-year-old boy was shot in his back and  pronounced dead on the scene."

Victim Brandon Davis' sister said in 2005 "I'll never get the chance to find out what he'll turn out to be or if he was going to college or if he was going to play professional basketball."

"We have a young man who threw away his opportunity and stole a life. For him, I have no sympathy," said Davis' grandfather Harlen Robinson during Jackson's sentencing.

Time in the penitentiary was a wake up call for Jackson.

He received his GED, earned college credits and underwent intensive drug therapy. He speaks to children and adults now about avoiding a life of crime. The group is called Dope is for Dopes. DOPE stands for Death or Prison Eventually.

"It's a lot of guys in prison that feel lucky to be in prison and this may sound crazy but the reason why is because due to some of the things, the extremes of activity that we was doing out there, there was a strong possibility that I would not been have lived to see 21 years old."

Jackson has been taking his cautionary tale outside the walls of the Grafton Reintegration Center to Youngstown.  Dope is for Dopes has teamed up with Youngstown's Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (C.I.R.V.). C.I.R.V. began in July of 2012.

"You may want some fine things in life. You may want a good car. You may want some money in your life but the route in which you willing to take to get these things is not worth it. The value of these things is not worth it anymore, it never was and when you coming to terms and realize that the things that you value are family, education, people in your life that actually care about you."

Jackson talks to youth and adult gang members at C.I.R.V. call-ins in Youngstown where they're offered social services for a way out.

"I've seen gentlemen who hadn't had a job and they're 30 years old right now and they're starting to be trained to have employment. I've seen young men reconnect back with their families," said William "Guy" Burney, C.I.R.V. Coordinator. 

The little more than a year old collaborative, also offers prevention efforts for youth and takes out the most aggressive gangs.

"That's how we also measure our success rate is our gang related  homicides and group member homicides down and they're down dramatically this year thankfully," said Youngstown Police Chief Rod Foley.

In 2012 there were 27 murders and so far this year, there have been 16. Homicides related to gang or group violence, are down about 70 percent.

"The field that we are in and every individual in our group we have said we are in the field of saving lives," said Jackson.

A multifaceted approach to try to reach the hearts and minds of individuals who have a ripple effect on the community.

C.I.R.V. wants to partner with businesses and trade unions to provide more opportunities to those in the program.  Chief Foley said that they are always looking for more social service partners, resources, funding and employers, who are willing to give these young men a chance.

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