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NEW YORK (Reuters) - It is a 35-foot beast - bright, bold and a striking shade of orange - that cannot be missed. And in the New York City neighborhood of South Jamaica in Queens, the PeaceMobile is a local symbol of pride.
The bus is the idea of Erica Ford, who founded LIFE (Love Ignites Freedom through Education) Camp, Inc in 2002 to prevent gun violence by mediating conflict and offering mental and wellness services to the community.
"We see it very important to not only go out in the street and take the gun and stop the incident, but to help that person heal from what made them think that the gun was the resolution to the problem that they had," said Ford during a recent interview with Reuters.
Ford, who has been working to end gun violence in the city for more than 30 years, said her methods to break the cycle of violence, which have been copied elsewhere, are "both conventional and unconventional."
As well as providing jobs and financial literacy, the group also offers therapeutic activities such as yoga.
LIFE Camp works with New York City's Crisis Management System (CMS), a network of more than 60 anti-violence community groups. With a $36 million dollar investment from the city, CMS works in its most violent neighborhoods.
According to the Mayor's Office to Prevent Gun Violence, from 2010 to 2019 CMS contributed to an average 40% reduction in shootings in the neighborhoods it serves.
Jessica Mofield, the executive director of the Office To Prevent Gun Violence, said these community groups serve the important purpose of providing role models who can show at-risk young people alternatives to violence.
"A lot of times when you hear people talk about the criminal justice system and there's always this emphasis on second chances, but we're really trying to give people a first," said Mofield.
(Reporting by Reuters TV, Writing by Marguerita Choy, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)
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