PORTSMOUTH, Va (WAVY) — Portsmouth, like many cities in America, is seeing a spike in violence, particularly gun violence.

“The shooters and the victims are getting younger and younger, and that’s concerning,” Susan Fincke told WAVY. Fincke works in the Portsmouth Courthouse as executive director of Friends of the Portsmouth Juvenile Court.

She can’t stand what she seeing, so she’s leading a coalition called Act Now Portsmouth to stop it.

“We have recently hired a small staff that include two peacekeepers,” she said.

On Friday, the coalition brought in the DC Peace Team to train these peacekeepers and other community partners.

“You deploy people who are from the neighborhoods, who know the neighborhoods, who know where the hot spots are, know where people hang out, and have the intel — if you will — about what’s going down,” Fincke explained.

The peace team uses proven techniques to diffuse tense situations that often lead to shootings.

Portsmouth Police Chief Renado Prince, who was sworn in Friday morning, is a partner of the coalition.

“What it’s showing is the community is united in trying to reduce crime in the City of Portsmouth,” he said.

Programs like this, he said, are part of the plan to educate the youth and give them alternatives to crime, access to jobs, housing and medical care.

“On the [other] hand, if you don’t take the carrot, the stick is we will prosecute you and get you out of the community into jail — and that’s our last resort. We don’t want to do that,” Prince said.

Other partners of the coalition include the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority, local health department, several nonprofit groups and individual advocates including a mother who lost her son to gun violence.

If you’re interested in joining them, the group meets every other Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church in Old Town. The next meeting will be held on Sept. 15, 2021.