By Rachael Cardin

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As the number of homicides in Baltimore this year approaches 300, a new group is emerging with the goal of stopping shootings before they happen.

City barbers and beauticians are stepping up to serve as the first line of defense, standing between shooters and their next victim in an effort to cut away at the crime rate.

The effort is part of the Healing City Baltimore initiative announced Wednesday.

“Children in Baltimore are growing up experiencing PTSD similar to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan,” city councilmember Zeke Cohen said during a news conference announcing the initiative. “Two hundred ninety-five murders so far in 2019 is not normal.”

Almost everyone gets their hair cut, which barbers like Troy Stanton with New Beginnings Barbershop are hoping they can use to help start conversations that could change lives.

“They trust us more than they trust anyone else,” Stanton said. “We are family, we are extended family.”

Stanton has seen the effects of the city’s gun violence epidemic firsthand: in 2018, he was shot inside his shop. Since then, he’s worked to help prevent violence.

“We’re counselors, advisors, we are the first line of defense and the first line of armor with anything that takes place in the community,” Stanton said.

For Rosalind Holsey, a life on the streets of Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood was stopped in its tracks because a barber named Willie Harry gave her something to work toward.

“If it wasn’t for him, I can’t tell you where I would be today,” she said.

As part of the initiative, Stanton and Barbers United will be providing free haircuts, food and other resources at an event at Coppin State University on February 9, 2020.

Rachael Cardin

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