'They don't know where to go... that's why we're here'

'They don't know where to go... that's why we're here'
TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- A local anti-gang organization has made big waves in keeping our streets safer.

There is so much more to life crime.

It could be the humility of being arrested, or even the shock of a shooting, but increasingly often local gang members are giving crime the cold shoulder.

"You're not always gonna be Daddy's little boy. You gotta work for stuff," says Juan Martinez.

Martinez still has the tattoos and a little bit of a 'tude, but make no mistake about it: the ex-gang member has come a very long way in short amount of time.

It all stems from a random pep talk that took place in the middle of Juvenile Hall.

Martinez got a visit from Jesse Campos, an ex-gang member who now mentors troubles teens for an organization called "F.I.R.M.E. Outreach." Campos' visit was part of a court-ordered referral program that's been catching on with tough teens everywhere.

"They usually say 'you don't know me'.. but when we show them our tats and the pictures, their hearts and minds open," Campos tells KEPR.

As Action News told you last year, courts in the Tri-Cities hoped to stem the tide of gang violence by beefing-up partnerships with non-profit organizations. Campos' organization benefited the most.

In the past year, the number of referrals at "F.I.R.M.E. Outreach" has doubled. Campos and his group of volunteers now mentor 80 teens, with many more to come. "F.I.R.M.E. Outreach" just opened its first office in Sunnyside. There's also plans to open a branch in Yakima.

"They don't see the hope and change. There's no resources. They don't know where to go. That's where we come in," Campos says.

As part of the program, troubled teens are required to meet with F.I.R.M.E. Outreach at least once a week.

The number of participants has doubled in just one year.