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City of Toledo looking to expand violence interrupter program

Toledo is looking to hire nine members, quadrupling the current staff, as well as adding outreach specialists.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Solving gun violence in Toledo has become a major priority, and a major investment. 

Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz is looking to increase the number of violence interrupters from three to nine. It's a job that pays anywhere between $45,000 - $60,000.

Toledo has had 25 homicides so far this year. Five have been kids under the age of 18. The city is nearly on pace with last year, which was the most violent in Toledo history.

"It's something that hasn't been seen before," city official David Bush said. "When I tell the average person 'you have a smartphone. Look at it.' Violence is up all across the country. This is something we want to tamper down within our community. We want to see change and we want to see it now."

The city hopes that change comes, in part, with the newly named Save Our Community initiative. Bush is the new commissioner. The project started just last year as Toledo's Gun Violence Reduction initiative. 

The violence interrupters' job is to work as community liaisons, offering help and preventing crime before it happens. However, violence interrupter Isaac Miles said the broad definition of their duties has made it hard for the community to get behind what they do.

"At one point in time, people weren't aware of what we did as violence interrupters. The city didn't do the greatest job of letting them know exactly what it was we did. We got negative feedback initially," Miles said.

The city brought Bush on to lead the program back in May. Bush grew up on the streets of Toledo, working with kids at the library, while founding the MADD Poets society. Now, he's working to better inform people and make a difference.

"Life is totally different. A lot of our kids are raised differently," Bush said. "I grew up with a lack of resources. That was my situation, never my destination. That's the message we're trying to get out here about Save Our Community."

Miles said a lack of trust by young Toledoans has made them hard to reach, much less get involved before they end up living a violent lifestyle.

"Growing up in the inner city we have a lot of trust issues. Building those relationships with those guys, them seeing me every day. I'm meeting them where they're at," Miles said.

The two are confident in the program. Bush said he's working to expand into other parts of the city.

"We're building on the success that we've had previously," Bush said. "What we're going to be doing is rolling out another violence interrupter program in our Lagrange area. Shortly after that, it's going to be in the east Toledo area."

If you'd like to apply to become a violence interrupter within the city, you can do so here.

   

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