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Next step for Virginia's gang violence prevention campaign: targeted ads

Attorney General Jason Miyares speaks about Ceasefire Virginia in Richmond.
Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Jason Miyares speaks about Ceasefire Virginia in Richmond.

Virginia is trying to crack down on gang violence. But opinions are divided about the strategy.

Attorney General Jason Miyares is launching a new public relations campaign to let young people know that gang violence is a dead end. It's part of a program known as Ceasefire Virginia that balances prevention with prosecution.

"If you want to have an immediate impact on violent crime, you need to go after those 3-5% of repeat violent offenders," the AG says. "But you cannot arrest your way out of this. You need to have to make those investments in young people and young people's lives."

Critics say too much of the grant money is going toward a surveillance state instead of programs like FailSafe to help people once they get out of incarceration or Bridge Ministry, which helps people suffering from drug and alcohol addictions.

Here's Shawn Weneta at the ACLU of Virginia.

"It's really disappointing to see that a lot of this money went to law enforcement and to prosecutions," Weneta says. "When a lot of these community-based programs, like FailSafe and like Bridge Ministry, were denied grants and didn't get any money out of this program."

In the next few weeks, the attorney general hopes to roll out new technology that will use GPS data to push YouTube videos in communities where gang violence is happening in real time. The message: gun crimes mean more time.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.