YONKERS, N.Y. –A coalition of Yonkers officials is calling on state lawmakers to provide steady funding for an anti-gun task force they say has been successful in reducing violence in some of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods.
City and state officials joined together Friday at a downtown YMCA where they rallied for state money for SNUG, or guns spelled backwards.
“SNUG has been enormously successful at reducing shootings in Yonkers and many other communities throughout New York,” said State Senator Andrea-Stewart Cousins (D-Yonkers). “But year after year, the future of this program is uncertain due to funding concerns. The SNUG Program has saved lives and helped young people understand that violence is not the answer. It has been and will continue to be a great investment in our communities.”
SNUG was established by the state in 2010 in communities throughout New York in response to a number of shootings and killings.
Modeled after the city of Chicago’s CeaseFire program, officials say the SNUG program helped to reduce homicides in Yonkers by 39 percent in the first year. Today, in the city zones covered by SNUG, shootings are down almost 80 percent, police and program leaders said.
"Yonkers has made great strides in reducing gang violence, and this has been a direct result of the work of the Yonkers Police Department and the staff of project SNUG,” said Jim Bostic, chair of the City of Yonkers Violence and Gang prevention coalition.
Operating out of the Yonkers YMCA, the city’s SNUG program uses ex-gang members to counsel and mentor youth most likely to use a gun. In addition, the program uses things like violence mediation, cookouts, employment training and basketball tournaments to help drive youth away from the streets.
On occasion, the SNUG team will also respond to a neighborhood after an episode of violence, working to quell tension and prevent retaliation.
“One of the best things to happen in Yonkers is that it learned how to handle many of the challenges of the streets,” said YMCA SNUG program manager John Thompson. “One of these answers was project SNUG.”
But the program has struggled to consistently maintain the funding necessary for operation.
In 2011 Stewart-Cousins successfully lobbied for additional state money to keep the program afloat. Then, in December, Mayor Mike Spano and City Council member Christopher Johnson announced the city would give Yonkers SNUG $100,000, enough to fund the program for six additional months.
But it’s time for the state to step up to the plate, Yonkers officials said, and provide steady funding for program.
“The highly successful SNUG program, working with our police department, has contributed to a multi-faceted approach in this reduction in gun and gang violence,” Spano said. “Let’s keep up the momentum – I urge our State leaders to recognize the value of SNUG and the many young lives it has saved and can save in the future by continuing their support of the program.”