ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Gary Mervis with Camp Good Days also works with a program called ‘Project Exile’. It was first brought to Rochester in 1998 when the city’s homicide rate was surging out of control: around 70 murders per year. 

“It gave us the distinction of having the highest per-capita homicide rate of any city in New York State,” said Mervis.

Last year, Rochester saw over 80 homicides, and this year is showing no slowing in pace. Through Project Exile, if someone is found to be in possession of an illegal firearm, they can be exiled from the community and sent away to serve time in federal prison. 

“We’ve had some success, and it’s what keeps me going,” said Mervis.

Project Exile meets once a month in the federal building. The group is made up of law enforcement, prosecutors, and various organizations. “… to talk about what we might, as a community, be able to do,” Mervis said.

There is one obstacle in neighborhoods to solving the gun violence issue. “In order to make it work, it needs a lot of cooperation — which in many places, doesn’t exist,” Mervis said.

Mervis said a lot of the problems involve young people with issues stemming from home. “So many children are growing up in households without a father. So there’s no one there to give some structure,” he said.

He said for those thinking of using a gun to commit a violent act to think twice. “You plus an illegal gun equals prison,” he said.

Project Exile works with Project TIPS, the City School District, the Youth Violence Partnership, and others.