Youngstown violence interruption program begins today
The Youngstown Police Department’s summer Violence Interruption Patrols Program will begin today with the strongest law- enforcement presence in the program’s history.
The patrols are an annual effort by Youngstown police, collaborating with various other police departments, prosecutors’ offices and the faith-based community, to intercept violent crime with increased patrols and other tactics in high-crime areas of the city.
The VIP program has been in effect annually since 2003, with changes made to it almost annually. The program runs through Labor Day weekend.
Chief Rod Foley said the police department will be collaborating with 13 law- enforcement groups as well as the faith-based community in carrying out the program this year. The chief said about $50,000 is available for the program, but the majority is accomplished through rescheduling officers to accomplish the task.
Foley said the goal of the program is to provide an enhanced police presence in the community, reduce violent crime, enhance prosecution efforts on violent offenders and get illegal guns off the street.
“We have been trending down with gun use, but we still have our challenges,” said Foley.
“We are trying to change behaviors and make people realize carrying guns is not the appropriate way to go.”
The program, Foley said, is largely about police presence in the community but will include other crime-fighting and intervention strategies. He said gang and drug activity will be investigated, and other preventive measures are planned.
“We will have a variety of different tactics in place, but I want to make sure there is definitely a big police presence,” he said.
Dave Toepfer, assistant U.S. attorney, and Paul Gains, Mahoning County prosecutor, vowed to work together in keeping violent offenders off the streets for as long as possible once they have been arrested.
Toepfer said his office will look to prosecute offenders under the jurisdiction, state or federal, where the crime brings the stiffest penalty.
Gains said the county prosecutor’s office will dismiss state charges in situations where it is deemed that federal charges are more suitable for prosecution.
Foley said the faith-based community will play a key role in warding off violent crime in the community.
“As I have said before, we cannot arrest our way out of this problem, so we need the help of the community and the faith-based community in this effort,” he said.
Several members of the faith community including the Rev. Willie Peterson, the Rev. Mike McNair, the Rev. Lewis Macklin and Father Greg Maturi are offering support for the violence interruption program. The religious leaders said the church community is planning after-school programs, prayer and training for young people and adults this summer.
Demaine Kitchen, Youngstown mayor’s chief of staff, called the program a successful means of taking a proactive approach at reducing crime and violence in the city. He said the mayor’s office is pleased to see an earlier start for the program than in past years.