By Tom Mustin
DENVER (CBS4)– A program aimed at ending gang violence this summer in East Denver has been a tremendous success. After a violent May, Reverend Leon Kelly rallied community leaders and law enforcement to stop the violence.
Wednesday, Kelly hosted a news conference at the Highlands Ranch Golf Club. He talked about the program’s success, and thanked the many agencies and individuals who have contributed to the Safe Summer program.
Doretta Tootle has seen a big change in her East Denver neighborhood. After several gang related shootings in May she worried about her family’s safety.
“We were afraid for our children,” she told CBS4’s Tom Mustin.
Kelly partnered with the mayor’s office, lawmakers, and several agencies across the Denver metro area. Together they put together a 90-day “Safe Summer” program- challenging the community to end the violence.
“To let the people who are thinking about making bad choices know that there’s a community that’s going to rally together, and that’s not going to tolerate any violence in our hood, ” said Kelly.
Kelly organized neighborhood picnics each weekend, and invited gang members to attend. He talked to them one on one- hearing their concerns, and letting them know that any violence would come with consequences.
“Am I willing to give my life in prison for a brief moment of hatred?” asked Kelly.
East Denver resident DaLoyd Reynolds is a former member of the Crips gang. He also spoke with gang members in his neighborhood. He says they heard his message.
“Gang members hurt in a certain way,” he told Mustin. “But you can never hurt like a mother or a parent or a grandmother.”
Since the Safe summer program was implemented June 1, Kelly says there have been no gang related homicides on Denver’s east side. He says the challenge now is to keep the peace.
It’s a challenge parents like Doretta live with every day,”We want our community to be safe.”
Kelly says other communities, from Aurora to Highlands Ranch, are also experiencing gang problems. He’s hoping his program in East Denver will continue year-round, and that other communities will follow suit.