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Safe Neighborhoods Initiative begins in Steubenville

Updated: Friday, February 21 2014, 09:41 PM EST

By Jessica Guay

Steubenville, OH -

The city of Steubenville took the first step towards a safer neighborhood by spreading a community-wide message to end gun-related violence.

On Friday, the first Safe Neighborhoods Initiative meeting was held with a group of individuals who have a history of violent criminal behavior and had to attend as part of their probation or parole requirements. Attendees of the meeting included city leaders, law enforcement officials, clergy members and victims of violent crime.

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Jane Hanlin said the only way to combat crime is to engage everybody in the community.

“I think it’s always very powerful when people can see other families who have been affected by violent crime. So we had the father of a child who was murdered in the city of Steubenville speak,” Hanlin said.

The message - what happens after the violence and shooting, how the loved ones of victims and the community are affected.

“And what had impressed me, the individuals that were there, paid attention, I mean every party that spoke here, they had the attention of the group of individuals who have been involved with problems and trouble in the past,” Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said.

Hanlin said she was surprised how well the first meeting went today, which she hopes to be the first of many. She believes that this program will be effective because these individuals will become a positive influence to other people in the community.

“It’s a message from the entire community and the community’s message is obviously the grief associated with gun violence, affects everybody, particularly the families related to the victims of gun violence,” Assistant Attorney General State of Ohio Robert Fiatal said.

The Rev. Vaugh Foster of Christ’s Community Church spoke at the meeting and said he wanted the individuals there to know that they are not alone and the community can help them get out of a life of violence.

“There is hope, no matter what their past is like, no matter what they’ve been through, God created them with purpose and they can be different,” said Foster.

In addition to the Safe Neighborhoods Initative, Abdalla said the city is working towards pushing a bill to increase the penalty of gun possession from three years to 10 years, in hopes that more people will put their guns down and stop the violence.

Safe Neighborhoods Initiative begins in Steubenville

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