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Save Our Community initiative to expand into Lagrange neighborhood

Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said homicides have dropped 25% compared to the same time last year.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz announced Tuesday the Save Our Community program is expanding into the Lagrange Street neighborhood of north Toledo.

This will be the second neighborhood the program and its violence interrupters will tackle, after working in the Junction and Englewood neighborhood since 2020.

Violence interrupters said the work they do is much more than just stopping people from pulling the trigger. It's a holistic approach that involves developing the community and demonstrating there is more to life than the streets.

"I saw violence as young as probably six years old," Isaac Miles, Toledo's longest-running violence interrupter, said. "It was just a regular part of life and it became normal and I'm trying to change that so it's not so normal for everyone else in the community."

Miles has been with the program since it began in 2020, and he will now be leading the new Lagrange Street team out of the Zablocki Community Center, where Kapszukiewicz made the announcement in a press conference.

Miles said violence interrupters' work consists of outreach and helping people find careers and resources, and he says that's all it takes to show people there are better options than the streets.

"I'm helping the OG's get jobs, I'm looking at the people who were looked at as street guys and get careers. So the younger guys are coming to me, 'Hey man, you think you can give me a job?', just seeing someone in that presence, seeing someone that looks like you doing something positive, it helps you know you can do it as well," Miles said.

Kapszukiewicz said it's showing results. The mayor said that homicides are down 25% compared to this same time last year. While he said he doesn't think this program is the only factor for that decline, the mayor believes focusing on the community is a big part of the solution.

"The best approaches are those that embrace grass roots, interpersonal, one-on-one relationships, and that's what this does. We know the police can't be everywhere all at once," Kapszukiewicz said.

It's an approach that brings some hope to the LaGrange street corridor, which has struggled with shuttered businesses and high crime for years. Councilperson Vanice Williams said it's a chance for the neighborhood to have some hope.

As for how long it will take to see it, Miles said is hard to say.

"It takes a minute. In the inner city people have trust issues, so it takes a lot of time to break those barriers and let them know they can count on us to be there for them. It will take a little time, but we're gonna be working at it. This is our mission," Miles said.

Save Our Community commissioner David Bush said as long as the communities want them there and they continue to get funding from the city, they will stay in these neighborhoods in perpetuity until they see the change that matters.

Also at the press conference an update on the city's plans for east Toledo violence interrupters was announced. The city is already training one person and she is expected to start working in the next 60 to 90 days.

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