New campaign aims to keep teens away from gun violence

MILWAUKEE (WITI) – The leading cause of death among young Milwaukee males is homicide -- and one community group is pushing to change that statistic.

The Running Rebels community organization is hoping to keep young people away from gun violence, and it’s doing so through a new ad campaign called "I can stop a speeding bullet.  So can you."

“Getting young people to see that there's hope.  When you build hope, it starts from within,” Running Rebels Executive Director Victor Barnett said.

Signs have been posted at bus shelters and on digital billboards featuring individuals who were arrested as teens, and through the Running Rebels "intensive monitoring program," have been able to turn their lives around.

“It's an alternative to corrections and we feel that a lot of young people deserve and earn that second chance in life,” Barnett said.

“I was charged with two counts of armed robbery,” Mario Drain said.

Drain shared his story in a video on the campaign's new website.

“I was facing 92 years,” Drain said.

Instead of jail, he was court-ordered to join the intervention program.  Now, seven years later, Drain is a father, a husband and a college student.

“I realized that there were more options.  There were better things for me to do out here in the community.  This is the second chance that I needed,” Drain said.

Over the last decade, Running Rebels has saved Milwaukee County taxpayers close to $64 million by keeping teens out of incarceration.  However, officials admit more could be done.

The organization says 80% of homicides among young males are gun related.  Through its new campaign, the group is hoping to show that others, too, can get that second chance at life.

“I think we're part of the answer.  I think we can help make a difference,” Barnett said.

If you'd like to learn more about the campaign or become a mentor, click here.