The state has renewed funding for the Yonkers YMCA’s violence reduction program, and Family Services of Westchester will receive $275,600 to start an anti-gun violence initiative in Mount Vernon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today. The YMCA of Yonkers is getting a $280,000 grant from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
The state is giving out a total of $2 million for seven such anti-gun violence programs, with other locations in Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and the Bronx. The initiative focuses on street-level outreach and intervention to help steer young adults away from solving problems with guns and violence, and toward positive approaches that keep communities safe.
“This funding will support programs that directly engage high-risk youth to help them make better choices for their future,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As we continue efforts to build safer communities across the state, these are critical investments in New York’s most vulnerable areas that will teach our youth an important lesson: picking up a gun should never be the answer.”
The anti-gun violence program builds on the SNUG (guns spelled backward) initiative that was formed in 2009 in New York. The programs are run in municipalities that have high volumes and rates of homicides and shootings. They use street outreach workers who are trained to reduce violence or prevent further violence from occurring.
Each site has to implement a community-based strategy that can include neighborhood events and public education activities. Community members involved may be former gang members, people with prior convictions for firearms crimes or former inmates who have made positive changes in their lives by turning away from crime.
“No one knows better what the future looks like for a high-risk youth than someone who has already been down that path,” said Michael C. Green, executive deputy commissioner of the Department of Criminal Justice Services. “By recognizing the signs that a situation might be escalating toward a violent conclusion, outreach workers can make contact with those on both sides of the issue and try to find a resolution, and also help open the eyes of those young people to more positive opportunities.”