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Albany Gets $2.2M In State Money To Improve Public Safety

The city of Albany is receiving $2.2 million in state funding toward combatting violence.

Governor Andrew Cuomo's office says it engaged local members of the clergy, community leaders, law enforcement and elected officials to come up with a "multi-pronged initiative" employing "a holistic approach to combat the City's violence by advancing both short-term and long-term solutions."

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan says it's a very comprehensive package.  "...to help the city to not only deal with the immediate violence that's happening, but really looking at that long term. How do we ensure that particularly young people have access to opportunity. So included in funding that's gonna be provided is money for workforce development and really focusing on that really 14- to 24-year-old, so really runs the gamut of those work skills and then actual job readiness and getting people placed in jobs as well as funding for a new outreach worker in Cure Violence, which is really important. But then also that mental health aspect of it and focusing on the need for an embedded social worker and assistance of the Office of Mental Health on how do we address the mental health issues that happen when somebody is a victim of a crime. And we've gotta expand that definition of what a victim is, because in many ways, the entire community is victimized when we have violent crime that occurs in our neighborhoods."

Here's the breakdown of financial support: $1 million to Bolster Youth Job Training and Build Employment Opportunities, $500,000 for the city's surveillance camera system, $500,000 to help upgrade the city's community centers. Another $50,000 goes toward gun violence outreach, to establish the Elijah Cancer Memorial Gun Violence Outreach, which , according to Cuomo’s office, will deploy "specially-trained outreach workers to communities with high rates of gun violence."

Dorcey Applyrs represents the first ward on the Common Council. "It doesn't heal the pain that the Cancer Family and this community is feeling. That being said, this is, I think, a symbolic way of honoring the life of Elijah Cancer and what he stood for, and that was peace and working to prevent violence in the city of Albany."

The 32-year old Cancer was shot dead in July while trying to break up a fight.

Applyrs is calling for three days of peace with no acts of violence. The "Albany Ceasefire" is being held Thursday through Saturday.  "The purpose of this is really to reinforce the importance of stepping up to prevent violence in our city. So the event is calling for a cease-fire from the 23rd to the 25th of August. The request is that, as a community, that we not engage in any violence, any acts of violence during this time. And a culminating event will happen on the 25th in which we're asking the community to come out with their teens and we'll have water balloons and other, in some cases, water guns, and really promoting fun and festive family-oriented events to culminate and celebrate the cease-fire."

Applyrs says her constituents have been demanding the city take action to stymie street violence. She sees the new state funding as a "sign"... "...that people are paying attention to what's happening. This is an example of what happens when there is strong advocacy from community and elected officials but also responsiveness from those in leadership positions who have the resources to advocate to mitigate problems such as violence in the city."

The governor’s office says the state's total investment in Albany's anti-poverty and anti-violence initiatives this year now stands at more than $15.7 million.  These new initiatives and investments follow the recent announcement of $400,000 to support three projects in Albany through the Governor's Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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