JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The peacemakers at the core of the Cure Violence program spoke to Action News Jax's Brittney Donovan about their role in making their community safer.
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"I lost a son to violence in this community, and I also have one in prison as a result of losing a son to violence, so this hit home to me and my family," retired Jacksonville Sheriff's Deputy and Peacemaker Kim Verner said.
He's one of 15 neighborhood insiders on Jacksonville's north and east sides working with Cure Violence to rebuild their communities using a relationship-based approach. They're trying to convince young men that violence isn't the answer.
"Many of us who are involved in this program, we assisted in destroying our communities," peacemaker Abdul Muhammad said.
They're hoping that the young men entangled in the dangerous cycle ruled by retaliation will listen to their firsthand experiences.
For Varner, success means stopping other parents from losing their kids to violence like he did.
"I have every reason to be here to try to keep as many kids from going the same route my kids went," he said.
Mayor Lenny Curry offically launched the Cure Violence initiative at a community fair Saturday with support from Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.
But the peacemakers want to make it clear that they don't work with or share information with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
"The Cure Violence program has no connections with JSO. We're not employed by JSO and we do not gather information for JSO," peacemaker Tearron Byrd said.
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