NFL legend Jim Brown helps launch anti-violence street team in Newark

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
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on May 08, 2015 at 4:40 PM, updated May 08, 2015 at 8:35 PM

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NEWARK ---  In an effort to chip away at the city's persistent crime problem, teams of street organizers will soon hit Newark's streets to support at-risk youth, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced Friday.

"We need community involvement and this is how we get it done," the mayor said during a press conference in the city's South Ward.

About 15  city residents have been hired to mentor youth, help students get to and from school safely and deescalate conflicts that might lead to violence.

The street organizers will focus on the Clinton Hill section of the South Ward, which is part of the city's effort to stabilize the area through itsModel Neighborhood program.

The Newark Community Street Team will last for six months as a pilot program, but the city hopes it will continue longer, Baraka said.

The city's health department is also training the street teams to help identify residents who might suffer from mental health problems to refer them to services.

The organizers are paid $15 an hour and work part-time, said Aqeela Sherrills, the program's director. Sherrills is known for having brokered a gang truce between the Bloods and Crips in Los Angeles in 1992.

"Many of the lives that are lost go unaccounted for," he said. "We recognize that violence is a public health crisis."

On hand to support the initiative on Friday was former NFL player Jim Brown.

"Congratulations to the mayor," he said. "He is stepping out and stepping up."

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