PINE BLUFF, Ar. — A new gang reduction plan was introduced on Tuesday in Jefferson County.
Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. says it’s an ongoing issue that needs to be dealt with and now the Sheriff’s office, local organizations and school leaders working together.
Woods says he believes nearly 60 percent of the crime in the county is gang-related
“The epidemic gang violence that currently threatens our community is absolutely unacceptable, we all know that, we accepted that and that’s the reason why we are here today,” Woods Jr. said.
Woods explained the new gang reduction initiative called GRIP, which stands for Gang Reduction Initiative of Pine Bluff, to a packed room of people who are ready to stop gang violence across Jefferson County.
“It’s not just a law enforcement issue, it’s a community issue,” Woods Jr. said.
People who live in Jefferson County said they’ve noticed the uptick in violence.
“Well really all over the city I’ve seen little kids getting shot, teenagers. And gunshots at night, you don’t know which way they’re coming from,” one woman who didn’t want to be identified said.
She said she hears gunshots about every other night and it’s scary.
Meanwhile, Woods talked about a 3-point approach: prevention, intervention and suppression. He said they will also hire four new deputies who will solely focus on the initiative.
“They received the gang resistant education training,” Woods Jr.
Woods said he wants to get to children before they end up in a detention center.
“Target delinquency youth violence and gang membership from children in the years immediately for prime ages for introduction of gangs,” Woods Jr. said.
Training will also include school staff and local faith-based community members.
“Make sure that they kind of intercede and calm the situation as best they can,” Woods Jr. said.
The goal is to intervene and recognize gang influence or relationships that are building.
“This is going to show there’s some action being taken so we really look forward to gang violence being reduced,” United Citizens of Pine Bluff member, Kymara Seals said.
Seals has been on the frontline when it comes to trying to help the community seek solutions to combat ongoing gun violence. She and other community members did a study about citizens and how safe they feel living in the area.
She said this will make some people she knows who live in town, feel a little safer.
“I feel more better, if they hire more deputies,” one woman said.
Sheriff Woods Jr. said this isn’t a one-time thing, they want to do what they can to make sure the program continues as long as possible.