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Youngstown officials offer intervention to young men

Call-in identified individuals at risk of being next victim or perpetrator

YOUNGSTOWN — The city has seen 23 murders this year. It also had a lot of gun-related violence last weekend, when people were hit by gunfire or otherwise involved in it a dozen times.

One result was a Community Initiative to Reduce Violence call-in, where individuals identified as being close enough to violence to possibly be the next tragic victim or perpetrator received a lecture.

CIRV organized an hour’s worth of presentations Thursday at Youngstown Municipal Court intended to show them a way out.

Municipal Judge Carla Baldwin Casey stood in front of the five men and called the presentation a “rare opportunity to listen to people who want to help you.”

“There is not a dollar, not a substance, not an incident that challenges your manhood or your pride that should put you in a situation where you are either in court or in the ground,” she said.

“I know you are tired of looking over your shoulder. I know you are tired of disappointing your families and disappointing yourself,” she said.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown told the men that he grew up in Youngstown and found himself in dangerous situations.

“I had the opportunity to be sitting right where you are,” he said. “But I chose another opportunity not to be here. I’ve been in the room where things unfolded right in front of me, and I took another look at it and decided, ‘This is not the right opportunity for me.'”

“The reason I took some of those (positive) avenues is I didn’t want to disappoint my mom,” he said.

He was raised by a single mother, and his father has been in and out of prison most of Brown’s life, he said.

“There was an opportunity for me to be like my dad. The one thing I wanted more than anything was for my dad to teach me how to go fishing.” he said. “The best time I had with my father was when he was in prison.”

Brown said he didn’t see his dad much when he was out of prison. “When he was in prison he would write to me. He would remember my birthday. He would send me little pictures.”

Brown said “too many of my friends’ kids are dying. I’ve been mayor three years. Do you know how many times I’ve had to go to the funeral for the kids of one of my classmates?”

He added, “If you’re willing to help yourself, I’m willing to help you. Just because you have a record, just because you’ve been to jail doesn’t mean Tito Brown won’t help you,” he said.

Police Chief Robin Lees said his department has “been off of our game a little bit” because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “And you haven’t seen the best we can do. Well, you will start to see it. You will see increased patrols.”

Lees projected a photograph of Crystal Hernandez on a screen for the men to see. Hernandez, 23, was shot to death in her East Side apartment in early 2019.

“She had to throw herself on her child … because six young men fired into that apartment,” Lees said. Eight men were charged in the killing, and their cases are in the courts. Larenz Rhodes was sentenced to 30 years to life after his trial recently.

“One person is dead, and we’re prosecuting eight people who were responsible,” Lees said.

erunyan@tribtoday.com

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