Jacksonville, FL — For the people who work for Cure Violence, their mission is personal.
Rod Lawson told Action News Jax he lost a brother and nephew back-to-back to gun violence.
“I know the pain it brings to the family,” he said. “I know the pain we’re still going through.”
Anthony Smith said he’s experienced the same pain – on the job.
“When I went to the shooting response, I found out it was my family member, my nephew, is the one that got shot that was lying in the house dead,” he said.
Lawson and Smith are among 15 violence interrupters that go into neighborhoods to try to stop retaliation.
In the six months since Cure Violence rolled out in Jacksonville, the city says interrupters mediated 52 conflicts in the streets.
The city says they stopped 37 shootings, 11 of which they believe would’ve been deadly.
“That’s them working with two parties that have a conflict and getting them to resolve that peacefully,” Damian Cook said.
Cook is the Cure Violence implementation director. Action News Jax asked Cook if the city considers Cure Violence a success, despite all the recent shootings. That includes 11 just this week.
“We are seeing the results. It would’ve been much worse, unfortunately. That’s what we see from this,” he said.
He and the men working on the front lines to stop the violence say changes won’t come overnight.
“It’s gonna work, and their minds are changing,” Smith said. “I understand how you feel but we don’t need to take the initiative to retaliate on anybody. Let’s stop it right now and let’s move forward.”
Lawson said if he can help save at least one life, that means a lot to him.
“We just started up. Just give us time. We can’t stop everything. I can’t stop everything. Just give us time, and we need people to help us too,” he said.
Action News Jax also talked with a UF Health Jacksonville trauma surgeon who treats a lot of shooting victims.
She said they’re working on adding another person to the Cure Violence team who would respond directly to the hospital after a shooting.