How an NYC doctor helped Bronx neighborhood cut shootings nearly in half

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At a rally in the Bronx, among the many faces chanting in the crowd, demanding an end to violence on the streets in the Bronx is a pediatrician. Dr. Noe Romo is one of the main reasons this rally came together.

He created the program "Stand Up to Violence" at Jacobi Medical Center, which is based on the idea that violence is a disease and should be treated with methods and strategies used to fight diseases.

Every injury he treats reminds him of his childhood.

"I grew up in East Los Angeles in a neighborhood that's not too different from the Bronx," he said. "Most of the people I grew up with, I found myself in a lot of these patients."

The SUV program is by all means a group effort. Romo, along with Erika Mendelsohn, a licensed master social worker, help with physical and psychological aspects of violence.

But they also rely heavily on their "credible messengers," all employees of the hospital, but who are reformed from gangs and their time on the streets. They meet with patients who end up in the hospital with gang-related injuries and use their contacts and past experiences to mediate conflict.

Edwin Mendoza has been part of the program since it began a year ago.

"I was incarcerated for 17 years, and I said when I come home, I'm going to give back and make a difference and give them a better life," Mendoza said.

And something has definitely clicked, because in the year the program has been active in targeted areas including the 47th and 49th precincts, they have seen a decrease in shootings by 45 percent. And they are hoping to expand in other areas of the Bronx and possibly even other parts of the city.

The SUV program receives state funding from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, and is supported by Sen. Jeffrey Klein who secured nearly $1 million for its funding.

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