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Milwaukee to start "Ceasefire", aims to cut down on gangs and violence

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Torre Johnson walked us through his average day in one of Milwaukee's most violent neighborhoods.

The former gang member helps kids find jobs, cleans the streets and works to promote peace.

Just a few minutes into our walk-along, we hear ten gunshots fired about a block away.

"I don't even count anymore," Johnson said. "We can go see if somebody died."

Johnson, who heads the job training program for Wisconsin Community Services, says his ability to rise from gang activity to a productive community member helps him convince others to do the same.

"Most of them, they know my background, so that gives me the open door. And then when you actually tell them the truth, you know, that it's OK to feel sad, and it's OK to feel pain, but it's also OK to go to work everyday. Then they embrace that more."

The city wants more people like Johnson out resolving disputes before weapons are fired, and getting at-risk 16-25-year-olds on the right path.

"Who are both highest at risk, but at the same time have the most potential to make that transformation," Milwaukee Violence Prevention Program Manager David Muhammad said. "But it needs an approach that they can respect, that they can relate to, that recognizes that they have the capacity to make the change."

The city plans to launch Ceasefire in Spring of 2018, and already has $280,000 in the budget to pay for it. They also just received a $100,000 donation from Bader Philanthropies to add to the fund. Muhammad said most of the money will be put into staff.

Programs like Ceasefire have reduced crime in other cities, but have also been controversial for hiring former criminals to work alongside gang members.

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