Fort Worth, Texas – With a heavy focus on gang intervention and curbing gun violence, a newly formed group in Fort Worth aims to stop violent confrontations before they happen.
It’s being lead by Rodney McIntosh, a pastor at Christ the Risen King Church in Fort Worth.
“One of our goals is to not demonize or criminalize these young men but to give them an avenue or a way out,” McIntosh told NBC 5.
It’s a way out McIntosh said he was eventually able to find himself. Having experienced the lifestyle, he said his turning point was in 2006 after the birth of his son.
“For me, it was looking at my son and wanting to give him a chance at a better life,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to show with young men, like you actually have a family somewhere. Real family that does care about you.”
The announcement of the program was made before city council members in August. When NBC 5 spoke with McIntosh on Wednesday, he and his team were in California, where a similar program is already in place. “Advance Peace”, based in Richmond, California, is described as a program “dedicated to ending cyclical and retaliatory gun violence in American urban neighborhoods.”
McIntosh said the purpose of the trip was to gather as much information from city leaders there regarding how the program has worked and obstacles they may have come across during the beginning stages. Though modeled and shaped similarly, McIntosh said there will be some modifications to fit Fort Worth’s needs.
However, he said the premise will remain the same with a heavy reliance on people like him for intervention efforts — not the police.
“This program would not work in all actuality if police were a part of it,” he said. “Because of the demographic of the young men that we’re going after or we’re targeting, they don’t want anything to do with the police. When I was growing up, I didn’t want anything to do with the police. It’s just not a working relationship.”
Right now, VIP Fort Worth is still in its infancy stages. The process will take time, McIntosh said. However, it starts with outreach.
“Even in the midst of our training and our growing, we want to engage the men that may be a part of what we consider gangs and what we consider some of the violent activity,” he said. “We want to get with them and start to work with them, because it’s about building a relationship. We got to get them to understand, we’re just here to help and build a trust factor. I believe trust can take you a long way.”
According to McIntosh, the program will first focus on neighborhoods on the east and south sides of Fort Worth.