More Money To Be Sought To Combat Youth Violence
By Paul Tuthill
Springfield, MA – Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick says he will ask the state legislature for more money to combat youth violence. One city plagued with youth gang violence has yet to accept state funding it was awarded last fall. WAMC"s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Massachusett Governor Deval Patrick said in his state of the state address that he will seek a second year of funding for the " Safe and Successful Youth Initiative" It is focused on males between the ages of 14 and 24, a population that is statistically most likely to commit an act of violence, or be a victim of violent crime
Last fall, Patrick's administration distributed the initial funding for the anti youth violence initiative. Almost ten million dollars in grants were awarded to 11 cities through a competitive bidding process.
The city of Springfield was awarded 800 thousand dollars, but twice the city council has put off accepting the money because of concerns that some grassroots groups were denied funding. The Springfield Police Department , which wrote the grant application, is keeping 155 thousand dollars to pay for two gang unit officers. The rest of the money is to go to a half dozen organizations, with the largest share, 375 thousand dollars directed to Roca. Roca has operated an intervention program for troubled youth in the greater Boston area since the late 1980s, and started in Springfield about two years ago.
DeJuan Brown, the executive director of AWAKE, has complained to city councilors that his anti-violence group , which started in Springfield 8 years ago was not considered for funding from the grant.
Brown said many of the people involved with AWAKE are volunteers, who work full time jobs elsewhere, and give their time to do outreach work on the streets, in the jail or in hospital er's.
While a majority of Springfield city councilors on Monday night said they wanted more information before voting to accept the grant, Councilor Tom Ashe said the issue has been thoroughly aired in the Public Safety Committeee. Ashe, who chairs the committee, said he is satisfied the grant process was fair and that the recipients of the money are fully capable.
State officials have said communities that receive the grant money will have to demonstrate success in lessening youth violence.