03/19/2013 03:12 pm ET Updated Mar 21, 2013

Rochester Police Tackles Gang Violence In The Politest Way Possible (VIDEO)

Police in Rochester, N.Y., have launched a new initiative that cracks down on gangs. At the core of it? Polite letters to individual members that explain why they should stop the illegal activity.

"I am sure you are aware of the intensified law enforcement activity focused on you, your friends, or others close to you," Chief Sheppard says in the letters, which logically present the cops' case using four bullet points. "I would like to explain why this has happened and what must take place for it to stop."

The city is tired of violence, and the cops are watching, the letters say. According to WIVB, gang-related shootings in the area have recently increased.

WHEC reports that Sheppard knows some letters won't be read -- or even opened. But the approach has good intentions.

"We're not sending out threats," Sheppard told YNN. "We're basically sending out explanations."

The full text of the letters reads:

This is a very important letter that I want you to read carefully and completely. I am sure you are aware of intensified law enforcement activity focused on you, your friends, or others close to you. I would like to explain why this has happened, what must take place to make it stop, and what you can do to help.

First understand we know who you are and who your friends are.

Second, this city has been plagued for too many years by firearms violence, and we know that it's all about the groups.

Third, we have organized a substantial group of our own, consisting of Federal, state and local law enforcement partners to specifically target groups involved in firearms violence. Too many people have died or continue to be shot unnecessarily in our city. No doubt you know someone who has met this fate over the years.

Fourth, it is the shootings that will drive our work. We will focus our policing efforts on the groups that are involved in shooting incidents, especially when bodies are being put on the street. This is a very important point to understand. We will not only aggressively pursue the actual shooter involved, but we will focus intense law enforcement attention on the entire group as well. This is our new way of doing business. If a group is not involved in shooting people, this level of attention will not be necessary.

How can you help? Be a messenger, go tell your friends. Encourage them to think before they act in a manner that will bring heavy police attention to your group. It's a cause and effect relationship. You don't want or need this kind of law enforcement attention because one of your friends shot somebody out of anger.

I want you to remember one more thing. We care about you as individuals, as well as all citizens in the City of Rochester, who deserve to live freely without the threat of gun violence. Your families and loved ones care deeply about you as well. Too many people have died on our streets, or been seriously injured as a result of unnecessary gun violence. As Chief of Police in the City of Rochester, it is my responsibility to do everything in my power to make this city as safe as possible for everyone.

This is our new way of doing business and I thought it was important to let you know. Please go tell your friends.


James M. Sheppard
Chief of Police

In addition to the letters, which can be viewed in full here, officers will meet one-on-one with family and friends of gang members.

If the nice-guy cops can't convince them, maybe someone else can.




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