NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The vicious stabbing death of 15-year-old Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz has his community searching desperately for an end to gang violence.
“We have a crisis of disconnected youth,” City Councilman Ritchie Torres claims. Torres has reportedly secured $1 million for gang prevention services in the Bronx police precinct where the teen was murdered.
Funding will also be funneled into developing community outreach and youth employment programs.
“The more time spent in a job, engaging in productive programming, the less time spent in the streets running into trouble,” Torres explained.
“They need out of school programs. They need mentors. They need all that stuff to show them that violence ain’t like that,” Melvin James of East Tremont told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez.
Some people who live in the Belmont section of the Bronx say there are plenty of youth outreach programs available in their community, but they’re underutilized.
“Some families aren’t aware of certain programs that are available for their children,” Danielle Cousins of the Bronx said.
Councilman Torres added that he believes neighbors need to look out for each other and be prepared to diffuse violence themselves. Torres blamed a local bodega owner – seen in surveillance video as Guzman-Feliz looked for help – for not doing more to stop the large gang of armed suspects.
That shop owner has pushed back against Torres and the community’s accusations, saying he called 911 twice and feared for his own safety during the violent melee.
New gang prevention services in the Bronx will include former gang members called “violence interrupters” who reach out to current gang members in hopes of persuading them to abandon the life of violence.