Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- From drive-by shootings to stabbings, to the murders of a 20-month-old toddler and former high school football standout, gang-related crime has been a constant as of late in the city of Syracuse.
On Tuesday, 11 alleged members of the V-Not gang were federally charged with an array of felonies, but police and prosecutors say they can only do so much. That’s why Salvation Army outreach workers on the Southwest Side are making it their mission to steer gang members in the right direction and help end the violence.
Wearing blue Polo shirts with reflective lettering, and always in teams of two, the Barnabas Center Street Outreach Team networks for nearly nine hours a day.
"The goal is to help gang members or people on the verge of being in gangs make better decisions. And with making better decisions, eventually pull themselves away from being in a gang,” said Sheria Dixon.
And whether it’s helping them get back into school, or finding a job, it takes persistence and patience.
"People that are in gangs, it's their family. They have a bond with these people. So you know, it didn't happen overnight. So them not being in a gang isn't going to happen overnight either,” said Dixon.
The outreach workers say it's all about gaining trust. So they don't judge. They only offer support, friendship and some good advice.
"You're not going to get a PhD in selling drugs. You're going to go either in the ground or you're going to jail,” explained John Butler.
"It's very hard. It's a mindset. The young people have to want to be willing to take the next step, do better for themselves," Dixon said.
"One kid in particular he was homeless and now he's got his own apartment. You know, he's in school getting his GED,” said Butler.
Future success of the program may depend on future funding. Butler and Dixon say the program runs on a $52,000 Federal grant and much more is needed to really turn things around.