“We’ve obviously seen the uptick in shootings in the Rockaways,” Richards said, standing in front of of one of the region’s problem areas.
He announced a multi-faceted initiative that includes education, jobs component, violence interrupter program, and conflict resolution training.
“To fight crime there are several strategies you have to use,” Richards said. “Those are four worthy strategies.”
The programs were all funded as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s expansion of city efforts to reduce gun violence through a program called Gun Violence Crisis Management. The program targets and identifies individuals most likely to be involved in the violence and deploys intervention measures to stop the violence before it starts.
The specific initiatives in the Rockaways include Safe Space’s cure violence and mental health programs, Rockaway Development Revitalization Corporation’s Justice Plus program, ENACT’s school conflict mediation at PS/MS 183 and PS/MS 42, and the violence interrupters program.
The violence interrupter program employs local residents to intervene in situations where violence could be imminent, but also provides jobs to members of the community. Some of the employees are former gang members that know the situations on the street on a personal level and are equipped to deal with the potential violence that may erupt.
“The expansion of New York City’s anti-gun violence initiative is instrumental in reducing crime in Far Rockaway,” said Richards. “With these partnerships, we can work together with the residents of the Rockaways to improve their quality of life and ensure that our communities are safer and more secure by getting at the root of these violent crimes.”
The programs are being implemented alongside Olu Atanda-Ogunleye, vice president of youth development programs at Safe Space, and Nick Master, program director of Rockaway Development Revitalization Corporation. They both joined Richards in announcing the initiatives.
“The funding of the Justice Plus Program will provide a range of work readiness activities with vital wraparound services,” said Master. “The goal is the integration and advancement of participants into the world of competitive employment. The approach synergizes personal and professional development whose aim is to produce lifelong career paths for participants in our community.”
Master and Atanda-Ogunleye were both adamant about the residents reclaiming their community. On June 27, at the Ocean Bay houses on Beach 54th Street in Arverne, an anti-violence vigil was held that drew approximately 700 people.
“The members of this great community,” Atanda-Ogunleye said. “They’re ready to take back their community.
Richards also noted that Rockaway residents need to remember that violence is like a cancer: if left untreated, it could spread. He was careful to point out that this a problem that the entire peninsula faces.
“Bullets have no name on them,” Richards said. “We all have to be in this together.”