Maryland Digital News

ROCA's relentless commitment to disrupting gun violence shows signs of success in Baltimore


Driving around Baltimore on a sunny Fall morning checking in with some of the most high-risk young men in the city is how Jamal West usually kicks off his week.

West is a youth worker with ROCA, a program working to train young men to disrupt the cycle of violence in Baltimore. The program utilizes a specific behavioral therapy – cognitive behavioral therapy – that was created in partnership with Mass General. ROCA first started in Boston and launched in Baltimore just over four years ago.

Each youth worker has about 25 guys on their team and is responsible for at least two face-to-face check-ins a week, with another check-in usually on the phone. On this morning, West headed out to do some of those check-ins and the first one is with a guy named John.

“I was just sitting here on the box one day, and I was here, on the box,” John said while explaining how he got involved in the program.

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