ST. LOUIS — For more than a month, members of Cure Violence St. Louis have been putting the finishing touches on their Wells-Goodfellow site on Natural Bridge Road, working on marketing campaigns and other behind the scenes duties.
They're getting ready to tackle a major problem: violent crime in St. Louis.
"We look at violence from a health perspective, so if we're looking at it from a health perspective, we got to start putting out the little fires before they become big forest fires," said Marcus McAllister, an International Trainer with the Cure Violence Global Team.
McAllister — a Chicago resident and former St. Louisan — and several of his colleagues are in St. Louis this week.
"Cure Violence doesn't work with all crime. We focus on the most violent ones like the shootings and killings," said McAllister during an exclusive interview with 5 On Your Side Thursday.
McAllister said their key crime-fighting tactics will consist of putting their "violence interrupters" — former felons, drug dealers and gang members — on the streets and in neighborhoods in St. Louis.
"They themselves in the past might have been part of the problem, but now they see themselves as part of the solution," McAllister said.
McAllister, 47, is speaking from experience.
When he was just 18, he served 10 years in federal prison for gang and drug conspiracy.
"Our team, the way they're trained, they're from the neighborhood and so if they hear about a situation that might have been a disrespectful situation, if they can get on top of it, to stop before disrespect turns into a homicide, then that's when it's working," said Marcus.
The St. Louis team has a tough fight ahead.
As of Thursday afternoon, there have have been 167 homicides in St. Louis. Fifteen of the victims were 17 years old or younger. In all of 2019, police say 13 homicide victims were 17 or younger.
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Marcus McAllister is certain once their Wells-Goodfellow site officially opens its doors in October, violent crime in St. Louis will decline.
"I am really happy that we are making progress. It's one of the first programs that we've had in the city that will work to get out in front of the crime as well as address some of the root causes of crimes, and, help especially help the young people and families affected by the violence," said Lewis Reed, president of the St Louis Board of Aldermen.
"We've worked in Baltimore, Chicago, New York. We've also worked overseas in Honduras, Trinidad and in South Africa. I"m sure St. Louis will be no different,. We just have to have patience with it," said Marcus McAllister.
Cure Violence St. Louis is currently hiring people to work at its Wells-Goodfellow site which is set to open in October.
The positions include violence interrupters and outreach workers.
For more information call the Metropolitan Urban League of St. Louis at (314) 615-3600.