National expert helps Syracuse fight gang violence

After a recent spree of shootings on Syracuse's South Side, community leaders are coming together to find solutions to the violence.

Wednesday night, an expert from the National Gang Center offered strategies on how to deal with gangs to a crowded room at the Salvation Army Chapel. The first step, is having a comprehensive understanding of exactly who is in the gangs, and how they work.

Local groups, like the Community Intervention Committee, have been collecting and analyzing recent data. Experts estimate there are 21 gangs in Syracuse, but some are much more active than others. They also found the gang activity is most common on the South and West sides of the city, and are analyzing when they are committing crimes. The next step is to take that research and create a data-driven approach to stopping the problem.

"We have begun to identify the gang territories. Now, what we are working on is getting a better sense of what's getting youth into the gangs and what are the community's strengths and how we might help intervene in the problem," said Sarah McLean with the John F. Finn Insitute for Public Safety.

Experts say the strategy has to be two fold, one part is to suppress the gun violence and the other is to stop youth from getting involved in the gangs in the first place. The National Gang Center lists a number of techniques to help teenagers avoid getting involved with gangs. One is social intervention through mentoring.

Steven Marston says he grew up on the streets. His only son, a victim of violence, was killed earlier this year. He thinks he can get through to teens involved in gangs. "I'd tell them there are two ways out. Prison or death. So choose wisely," said Steven Marston. "I want to be part of the solution. I've been part of the problem for so long."

Wednesday's meeting was part of a two-day workshop on gang violence and how to stop it. Experts say the most successful strategies are ones that involve the whole community.

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