TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Shootings are on the rise in the Glass City, spurring calls for change. On Tuesday city leaders announced a new program with just one goal: Reduce violence.
"There's a very large concern happening across the community, and folks are saying, 'What's the answer? Who's doing something about it?" said John Jones.
A shooting-filled summer of 2011 spurred calls for change.
"We cannot, as a community, have another summer like we did last summer," said Toledo Police Chief Derrick Diggs.
Toledo's 2,500 known gang members are largely to blame for the city's violence. Diggs said only 1.5 percent of Toledo's population is responsible for more than 70 percent of the shootings.
On Tuesday, nearly two dozen local leaders unveiled the initiative. City leaders call their solution the "Toledo Community Initiative to Reduce Violence." The program has been in the works for years and is modeled after similar initiatives that have cut the number of murders in other cities by more than 30 percent.
The program is backed by partner organizations from across the community, along with a commitment from prosecutors. There is no significant cost to this program since it is a new focus for existing services from several organizations.
Through T-CIRV, the Toledo Police Department will target chronic and violent offenders, as well as the active gang members in the city. If a gang member commits a shooting, police will look for any sort of illegal activity among others in the group or gang associated with the shooter. There is also a community outreach component offering gang members alternatives to violence through education, job training and drug treatment opportunities.
"If you want to be bad, we'll take care of you. If you want to change your life, we'll help you with that," said Julia Bates.
Similar programs have been successful in other cities, including Cincinnati. City leaders said they are confident the same can happen in Toledo.
"This is a zero tolerance enforcement policy targeting the most violent offenders. The choice they have to make is before they start another shooting. Once the shooting starts, they don't have a choice. Their only choice is they're going to jail," said Diggs.
Progress of the T-CIRV program will be evaluated by the University of Toledo and the University of Cincinnati to make sure it is being implemented effectively.
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