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Roca program aiming to reduce crime in young adults begins in Baltimore

Posted at 10:28 AM, Nov 29, 2018

A new effort to reduce crime among young adults in Baltimore begins on Thursday. 

The program is called Roca, which is Spanish for rock. It aims to give teens opportunities and help them build relationships with law enforcement and to keep them out of trouble.

Roca started in Massachusetts and this will be the program's first out of state expansion.

Baltimore leaders got to see what the new program is doing for some of the city's most troubled youth.

For the last five months, Roca Baltimore has taken on 100 young men to reduce the city's rampant violence and put them on the right track.

"It is about how we focus on 17 to 24-year-olds, getting them off the street, getting them involved in jobs and job opportunities and training," said Mayor Catherine Pugh.

Cornerstones of thriving cities.  Thursday's open house wasn't just a party; its leaders showed the community the program's progress.

"I think we've got almost 100 people already in the program, we're geared up for 300. I think this is going to bode well for Baltimore," said Pugh.

The facility is more than just an escape from the city's harshest streets; it's a second chance.

"It changed my attitude, the way I thought, everything.  What I thought was the way out it just made me look at life better," Sheldon Smith-Gray, told WMAR-2 News.

Roca believes in being relentless in its efforts to save troubled young men.

"It helped me wake up and recognize the problems that I had and they got me through it," said Joel Sosa.

Roca targets high-risk men ages 16-24 to keep them from prison, find them jobs and keep them alive.  

Roca representation, James Tempson, added, "We have really been able to wrap our arms around a lot of them and offer them the type of support and services they've been looking for."

Roca disrupts the cycle of incarceration and poverty.

"This program and these people around me made me accept change and take on everything that comes with the change," said Smith-Gray.

The hope now is for Roca to extend its reach in the city even further.  

Back in July, WMAR-2 News took a trip to Massachusetts to see Roca in action, click here to read our in-depth story about this program.