Common Council to Apply for Grant to Fund Anti-Gang Initiatives

Syracuse would hire coordinator, develop outreach programs to prevent gang violence

Syracuse wants to gang up on gang violence. In April, the Common Council voted to apply for a $750,000 grant from the Justice Department to implement a program that develops anti-gang strategies.

Between Jan. 1 and mid-November 2010, Syracuse police received nearly 300 reports of “shots fired.” About 30 percent of those reports were gang-related, said Capt. Rich Trudell of the Onondaga Crime Analysis Center.

Janet Burke, the city’s director of research and co-author of the proposal approved by the council, said the city would use the Justice Department grant to create a three-prong program — hiring a coordinator to lead the anti-gang initiative, assessing gangs’ presence in the city and funding outreach programs to gang members.

The coordinator would serve as the authority on gang activity in Syracuse and be in constant contact with Mayor Stephanie Miner’s office and the Syracuse Police Department to develop strategies to reduce gang activity. Trudell said hiring a coordinator “would bridge the gap between intervention, suppression and prevention.” The grant would provide three years’ salary for the position.

Tom Roshau, director of the Salvation Army’s Youth and Juvenile Justice Services, said the gang assessment would help the city determine which gangs were prone to violence, which were particularly territorial and which were organized to traffic weapons or illegal drugs. He said Syracuse would not be eligible for other anti-gang grants until it completes an official gang assessment study.

City officials said the study would be conducted by the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, a nonprofit institute in Albany that researches crime at the county, state and federal levels.

The Salvation Army’s outreach program goes to specific neighborhoods the Syracuse Police Department defines as “hot spots” of gang activities, Roshau said.

“We are looking to build relationships with the people who run those neighborhoods,” Roshau said. “Anytime you come across somebody who had gotten out of a gang, they usually had help getting out of a gang.”

— By Brett Fortnam, Urban Affairs reporter

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