By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – The statistics alone speak volumes.
In Crown Heights, Brooklyn shootings decreased 20% after one year. Albany saw a 29% decline in violent gun use in eight months. Meanwhile, Rochester witnessed a staggering 40% city shooting drop in just six months. All of the much welcomed success rates are due to an evidence-based program titled SNUGS (backwards for guns), which is now coming to the City of Newburgh.
Wednesday afternoon, outside of the RECAP (Regional Economic Community Action Program) building on Broadway in the City of Newburgh, Senator James Skoufis proudly announced the $200,000 monies that will be awarded to the agency to run the extremely successful anti-violence program. Aimed at providing behavior support, improving community norms, as well as implementing violence prevention programs among other integral means to continue to build upon the recent improvements in Newburgh’s overall crime scene, SNUG comes at a time when negative perceptions still cloud over the City in the wake of recent shootings.
“It is imperative that the City of Newburgh is empowered by programs like SNUG that share a mission of keeping community members safe,” stated Skoufis in front of a crowd gathered in front of the RECAP building. “The SNUG Program has been proven to be extremely effective,” Skoufis added, “Make no mistake about it: shootings and homicides are down in the City; however, we need to continue to see that they stay down; safety is paramount.”
The SNUG Program is not new to Newburgh. Two years ago, it was in effect; however, due to financial issues as well as complications with the then host agency, it eventually folded. This time around, Skoufis, as well as many others familiar with the potent program, are confident it will be embraced and highly effective. Much of that confidence stems from the enduring partnership the City of Newburgh has with this time’s host agency, RECAP, who has a proven record of assisting Newburgh with anti-poverty campaigns as well as a host of other initiatives focused on empowering residents and overall community revitalization.
“This is a great day for the City of Newburgh; it’s a big win,” affirmed Mayor Torrance Harvey. “Public safety is number one, and the long-standing relationships we have with RECAP as well as those in the State Assembly, are going to help this program work and help move our City forward.”
The SNUG grant, which should be implemented in the next few weeks, is expected to cover such finances as incomes for personnel, training programs as well as materials. The program itself has staff work directly with the police departments, detecting potential violent acts before they bloom. It further analyzes data, applying its findings to critical training programs.
Perhaps, most importantly, SNUG actively involves community members, particularly those likely to be lured into violent acts, swaying them toward other options.
“The SNUG program works directly with people in the community most affected by gun violence,” said Assemblymember, Jonathan Jacobson, who assisted Skoufis in fighting for the SNUG monies. “This program will help the police do its job to make our communities safer, both in fact and perception.”
Existing in nearby Poughkeepsie, SNUG has positively altered the crime scene in a neighboring Hudson Valley City. Expressing passionate enthusiasm for the program and the dynamic effects it has had, Danny Hairston, the Poughkeepsie SNUG Coordinator, could not have been more excited to see its arrival in Newburgh.
“Having a presence in Newburgh allows us to prevent violence in Poughkeepsie; it will not only help in our respective cities, but regionally as well,” said Hairston, whose SNUG Program is hosted by Family Services. “Having violence and guns cannot be the norm and what the little ones see; we need to change that perception of what’s seen as normal.”
Mentioning the multiple offerings Newburgh has, from the Waterfront to its historic landmarks, Skoufis concluded with the limitless possibilities that a program like SNUG can have on altering the integral perception of the City, making it more attractive to visit, not to mention the County in general.
“If Newburgh is rising, Orange County is rising,” said Skoufis, who explained how this anti-violence funding is the first of many steps he will be taking to engage the state like it’s never been engaged before. “The state has long been missing in action when it comes to assisting the people of Newburgh with basic quality of life matters; those days are over.”