Merced Ceasefire group works to curb violence

MERCED, Calif.

The group is spending its evenings walking through the streets of Merced, hoping to spread a message to stop the violence.

More than 20 people marched through a neighborhood Thursday evening. Step by step they're hoping to reach their neighbors, they say to shed light for those in a dark situation.

"It's been well received by the community. People have come out and asked us to pray with them and inquire what were we doing," said Dr. Napoleon Washington.

The group's targets are spots in Merced, pointed out to them by police, as violent crime areas.

"The idea behind ceasefire is that we care about the people in our community," said Eugene Drummond from the City of Merced. "And that we're in their community to support them, not to judge them, to ridicule them, not to belittle them, but to support them."

Merced Ceasefire is meeting and talking with people near Canal Street and 23rd, which was the scene of a double murder last December. In that case police say two men were shot to death. The killings, they say, were gang related.

"The mission is simple," said Reverend Don Ramsey. "It's to deter crime. It's to deter that element of gangs and youth violence."

Ramsey is spearheading this non-violence campaign, modeled after other cities, like Fresno and Sacramento, with gang issues.

"Walking around, talking, praying with them and getting to know them, so they know what we do care about them," Ramsey said. "Now we want them to care about their own city."

Before this group hits the streets the volunteers must attend a training seminar. At Thursday's event a Merced Police Lieutenant taught them about safety, including how to approach potentially dangerous people.

Merced Ceasefire meets once a week to stop and talk with people in the city. They are looking for volunteers. If you'd like to get involved call (209) 385-6855.

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