Thursday, June 13

Help may be on the way to address gun violence in Fort Pierce

Help may be on the way to Fort Pierce to address gun violence following a violent weekend in the City.

Saturday, police in Fort Pierce responded to shootings that resulted in three people dead and another injured.

Police described it as a “very dynamic case,” fast-moving,” “complex” and “multi-faceted.”

One of those killed was Roosevelt “Kent” Benjamin, a U.S. Postal Service worker, father and grandfather.

Something is wrong in this neighborhood. And I don’t know how to pinpoint it,” said Benjamin’s neighbor Margaret Butts, who told our Chris Gilmore something needs to change.

In reaction, WPTV reporter Ethan Stein pressed city leaders for answers.

“We’re working on a lot of the things that need to happen,” Mayor Linda Hudson said.

“It sounds like you don’t know what the solution is,” replied Stein.

“Well, do you know what the solution is?” asked Hudson.

WPTV’s Kate Hussey went out to find solutions on Tuesday and found billions of dollars of federal funding, along with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition a group that helps cities across the state address gun violence.

Hussey connected FRRC leader Raysean Brown with Hudson and followed up with a Zoom call Thursday to talk about options.

Brown showed Hudson what the FRRC does, which in part, identifies people most at risk of violence and mentors them, connecting them with jobs, education, housing, drivers licenses, then uses those mentees to mentor others.

“They have the respect of the community, they come from it,” Brown said. “So we go back, we get those guys and we say, ‘Hey, well pay you a full-time salary, benefits, all of it to do this full-time in your community.”

The cycle of violence he said, turns into a cycle of success. It’s worked before.

The city of Orlando told Hussey since contracting with FRRC a year and a half ago, firearm homicides dropped by 20% and non-fatal shootings dropped by 36%, saving tax payers as much as $8.9 million dollars that would have been used to respond to shooting injuries and homicides.

“Right, and it only costs $1.5 million to get this program up and running,” Brown said.

“Mayor Hudson, we’ve talked about funding being an issue in addressing some of these problems,” Hussey said to Hudson.

“Are there opportunities to apply for grants to get this program up and running?” Hussey asked Brown.

“Yes,” Brown said, who recommended applying for grants through the Department of Justice, who’s Office of Justice Assistance funded Orlando’s program.

Hudson agreed it may just be what’s needed in Fort Pierce.

“This latest incident, it makes no sense, but I’m thinking to myself thats a silly thing to say, because none of these things make sense,” Hudosn said.

“There were 241 times where there could have been gun violence, and our guys in the field talked that situation down,” Brown said.

“And I see exactly why youve had success,” Hudson said.

Hudson said she’ll be talking to City Manager Nick Mimms to see if this program is something the city would like to pursue further.

Brown said he’ll follow up with an email containing more information.

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