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Leaving the streets: City of Syracuse launches project that will fight gun violence, provide escape for gang members

Fri, March 15, 2013 3:29 PM | NYGIA (Administrator)
Published March 5, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Officials in the city of Syracuse recently launched the Syracuse Truce Project, a federally funded program targeted toward reducing gang-related shootings.

“Truce is an important step to address the serious gang violence that has plagued our city and our neighborhoods,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner during the project’s press conference last Wednesday.

Syracuse crime statistics show about 65 percent of the city’s gun-related injuries in the last four years were caused by gang activity. This year has already seen three homicides by gun violence, all of which were gang-related, according to Syracuse Police Department statistics.

The goal of the program is to end the city’s gang-related violence, with SPD agreeing to help any of the city’s 1,472 gang members escape gang life, The Post-Standard reported Feb. 27.The program is a combination of increased community outreach for gang members and a zero-tolerance policy regarding any type of gang-related gun violence.

“We’re giving you a very hard choice. You can cooperate with this program or we’re going to come down on you like a ton of bricks,” said Bob Dougherty, common councilor for District 3, which includes the Southside of Syracuse.

As one of nine cities participating in the program, Syracuse received $300,000 in federal funding for the project from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Violent Gang and Gun Crime Reduction Program, according to a Syracuse Truce news release.

“The whole idea is focused enforcement,” SPD Sgt. Tom Connellan said. “In the past, if there was a shooting, we’d go after the shooter. Now we’re sending a message that it’s not just the shooter we’re going after anymore, it’s the whole group we’re coming after.”

Connellan added that gang members have already begun to call the Syracuse Truce hotline and make use of the opportunities the program provides.

The truce program is modeled after a similar program in Cincinnati, where the city saw a 41-percent reduction in group-related homicides after implementation, according to the release.

Along with the enhanced enforcement, the program provides social rehabilitation and reintegration by offering former gang members job training and social counseling programs, Dougherty said.

He added that it also provides services like alcohol and drug treatment, anger management and housing aid for gang members looking to change.

“I think the most important thing is trying to get people job-ready,” Dougherty said. “You can’t just tell a gang member, ‘Don’t do this.’ What’s their alternative? You’ve got to get people and get them job ready.”

Connellan said he believes the success of the program will depend on whether gang members choose to become involved in the program.

“It’s going to be up to the gang members,” Connellan said. “This program has been extremely successful in other cities. If the law enforcement here holds up their end of the deal and these gang members take our offers, the program will be successful. We’re hoping that a lot of these people take our message seriously.”

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