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New video aims to curb youth violence

Survivors’ grief is emphasized

Over haunting sounds of a piano, they speak. The camera pans close to their faces, focusing on the sorrow in their eyes.

“They didn’t have to die,’’ says a teenage girl, tears welling.

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“It’s not even worth it,’’ another says.

The people are victims of gun violence and friends and families of victims in a new video campaign that is attempting to appeal directly and emotionally to youth who may be primed to commit violent crime.

In the 90-second black-and-white video, officials said, they wanted to depart from previous antiviolence campaigns that have featured warnings from celebrities or public officials, hoping the grief of people like them would send a more powerful message.

“At the end of the day, what we want them to do is to think about the price of their actions and the impact on people’s lives,’’ said Lucas Guerra, who filmed the video. “. . . We want them to see that even though they might do something and not think about it, there are consequences.’’

The video, which the Patrick administration began posting last week on social media sites, including YouTube and Twitter, is part of an ongoing campaign that began with radio ads in July.

Like those ads, the video uses a slogan - “Stop. Think. Let it Go.’’ - to attempt to influence young people who may be driven to violence by peer pressure or revenge. Officials said they believe they can most effectively reach their intended audience through social media.

“One of the things we know is that if we’re interested in getting this message to young people, we have to use the things they respond to,’’ said Marilyn Anderson Chase, assistant secretary for children, youth, and families, who is leading the prevention effort. “We think we have the potential to get their attention and get them to respond to this.’’

The administration is urging municipal leaders, local law enforcement, and community organizations who serve at-risk youth to post the video on their websites, e-mail listserves, or social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

“This is a viral campaign,’’ she said. “We hope people who are concerned about youth violence will use Twitter, e-mails, and other social media to get this message out to young people.’’

The video can be seen on Governor Deval Patrick’s YouTube channel; his Twitter account has a link to the announcement; and the ad is now on the state’s main website, mass.gov.

The video is the latest in the Patrick administration’s Safe and Successful Youth Initiative, launched in May 2011 after a rise in homicides, assaults, and injuries caused by youths.

In October, Patrick awarded $10 million in grants to help fund education, employment, and street outreach programs in 11 communities with high levels of youth-related homicides and nonfatal assaults and injuries.

Both the radio and video ads cost roughly $70,000 to produce, officials say.

Guerra, the video’s director, stood less than 2 feet away from each of the 12 people featured in the video and had them talk to the camera. The sparse, ambient music of Helen Jane Long’s “Possibilities’’ hangs in the background.

“When we can get to see somebody’s core, their humanity . . . that’s so powerful,’’ said Guerra, who heads Argus, a South Boston business specializing in social issues advertising.

The video is stark in what it does not say: It leaves out victims’ names or the circumstances around their deaths. Instead, it focuses on the survivors.

One them is Bayholla Jacobs, who was filmed in October, one week after the funeral of her niece Paula Jacobs, 23, who was killed while visiting a relative in a housing development in Roxbury. The bullets, fired by gang members, were intended for someone else.

“She was stolen,’’ Jacobs says in the video. “Not from me, from her mom, or her dad, but from everyone who loved her.’’

Every day without her niece is a struggle, said Jacobs, who is trying to raise money for her headstone.

“I want to let people know that this is really serious,’’ she said by phone yesterday. “I want them to feel my pain.’’

The video also showed street worker Will Harvey, who was shot by a stray bullet.

“All I remember is getting shot,’’ he says, looking down. “Supposed to be dead.’’

The faces fade and come to life. The voices change from person to person. In the end, though, it was the same old story.

“Sometimes, you have to let it go,’’ one person says, as these words appeared on the screen.

“Stop.’’

“Think.’’

“Let it Go.’’

Meghan Irons can be reached at mirons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.
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