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High Point gang violence program needs grant

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- These days Brandon Simmons says life is good.

“I'm just happy,” Simmons said. “Life is where I want it to be."

He has a full-time job at a car wash and has recently learned some new carpentry skills.

He says it’s a huge turnaround from who he used to be.

"I was in a real violent place in my life," the 41-year-old said.

Simmons joined a gang when he was 13 and lived a life of crime that put him in prison for about 17 years.

"I hurt a lot of people,” he said. “I hurt a lot of people."

Things turned around after he joined the carpentry program through High Point Community Against Violence.

It teaches carpentry skills to gang members or people at risk of joining gangs.

"Measuring and cutting, toting boards, knowing how to hold something in place," HPCAV director Jim Summey said.

It’s a program High Point police are trying to continue.

“Anything we can do to steer a person away from a violent act is a win for High Point,” Lt. BJ MacFarland said.

Next month, police will re-apply for the North Carolina Governor's Crime Commission grant.

Ninety percent of it goes towards materials, tools and other things for the class.

“Without the funding, we would be less likely to be able to continue that class,” MacFarland said.

Summey says the class is critical especially now with 15 homicides in the city for the year.

"I shudder to think what our statistics would be if we had not been doing this work,” Summey said. "Our homicide rate may be double from what it is if it wasn't for the fact that we've been working with individuals all over the city."

Police don't know if they'll get the funding a third year in a row, but for people like Simmons, whose life has done a 360, it's too important to lose.

"This is where you'll start over," Simmons said. ​