SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Black city leaders joined Sacramento city officials to call for peace.

On Monday afternoon, Mayor Darrell Steinberg introduced a program called Advance Peace. The program aims to reduce gun violence, gun activity, and gun-related deaths.

The Sacramento City Council passed a four-year, $1.5 million package for the program in August in the wake of a shooting in Meadowview Park.

The program drew criticism from the law enforcement community, especially after a misleading article published by Fox News claimed the program was a $1.5 million payoff to gang members.

Black community leaders say the missing link to solving gun and gang violence is mentorship. They believe the new program will bring role models into the lives of at-risk youth and help them out of the street life.

“Gang violence is ripping our neighborhoods and city apart,” said Eric Robinson.

It’s something 21-year-old Robinson sadly knows too well.

Drugs and guns were a familiar sight for him growing up in South Sacramento.

“I’ve been a witness to gun violence, I’ve been shot at two or three times, I always say, “Why me?’” Robinson said.

Robinson says he’s lucky to be alive, but he lost his girlfriend to gun violence earlier this summer.

“I think about her every day, she was the love of my life,” Robinson added.

Tired of losing friends and loved ones, Robinson began mentoring at-risk youth. He says he’s managed to help a few sever their ties with gangs and instead pursue an education.

The problem, Robinson says:

“We don’t have enough resources out here to reach out to a lot of kids in gangs.”

“We wanna give every gang member an opportunity to be a part of this program,” said Rick Jennings, the city’s Vice Mayor.

Advance Peace was unveiled Monday by Sacramento city officials.

“We wanna give them job training and job development skills, we wanna give them financial literacy life skills,” said Jennings.

The program got its start ten years ago in the Bay Area city of Richmond. By December 2016, the city saw a 71-percent reduction in gun-related deaths.

The program brings hope to black city leaders.

“Mentoring, getting people out of the community and exposing them to new, different things, it has a potential to work,” said one leader.

Leaders say consistency is key to get Black youth out of the fast life.

“This is a four-year commitment; that’s consistency. If we can continue to keep that commitment and lift up this strategy I think we can see a change here in Sacramento.”

The city is now hiring staff to do outreach and recruit at-risk youth to join the program.

The city’s goal is to help at least 50 gang members and at-risk youth over the next four years.