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'Violence interrupters' work to keep Portsmouth teens out of trouble

One small but dedicated group in Portsmouth is working to keep teens out of trouble.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — One small but dedicated group in Portsmouth is trying to interrupt some of the violence.

Portsmouth has seen its fair share of violence this year, with 20 homicides so far. Many of the shootings involved teens.

Brian Credle spends a lot of his nights driving the streets of Portsmouth trying to keep those teens out of trouble.

"All of them live in hot spot neighborhood, as they would say," he said.

He’s with a group of about five men who call themselves the "violence interrupters."

Credle said the group builds relationships with people who know everyone in the neighborhood.

"In their respective neighborhoods, they are an official on the street, sort of," he said.

They will come get someone out of a tense or dangerous circumstance or attempt to diffuse a situation. Credle said his group is another option for someone who doesn’t want to call the police, or who is worried something might happen to them before it actually does.

He said it takes some work to build that trust.

"Not all the time when we reach out do we get contacted back. But when they reach out, we reach back," he said. "With a lot of these guys, it’s hard. Cellphone numbers change every few weeks, or cell phones get turned off and then you gotta find them on Facebook or Instagram."

He said giving teens something to work on within a charity or just doing a good deed, gives them time away from what could turn into a bad situation.

"We’ll pick them up and maybe take them to get a burger," Credle said. "Maybe cutting some grass or doing something and it keeps them off the street, or them out of trouble, or out of the grave."

Credle had some forewarning just a couple of weeks ago when Portsmouth saw a rash of shootings.

"The word on the street was Portsmouth was going to be bad. We had two to three and we were able to work them into the evening, late, and it prevented them from getting caught up in any mess."

As rewarding as Credle said the work is, it's also tough.

"Some of the places that I go, a lot of people I don’t think would go," he said.

The violence interrupter program, formed through HOPE Charitable Services, is looking for help, so they can reach even more people who need help. 

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"If we could grow and have an army of guys like this, it would be great. Not even an army, just a soccer team of them," Credle said.

If you want to join their team, you can find them through HOPE on Facebook or on their website.

So far this year, Hampton Roads has seen more than 100 homicides, a grim milestone that comes earlier than years past. Last year, Hampton Roads hit 100 homicides in mid-July, a full month later.

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