Richards met with members of the Macedonia Baptist Church in Far Rockaway to talk about ways to extinguish gun violence in the Rockaways. Photo by Trone Dowd.
BY TRONE DOWD
Last Friday, Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) met with members and leaders of the Macedonia Baptist Church to announce his proposed solutions for the gun violence epidemic that has long troubled the Far Rockaway area.
“We just renewed something called the ‘Cure Violence’ initiative for the Rockaways,” Richards told the Press of Southeast Queens.
Richards, along with local clergy as well as the 100th and 101st precincts, are introducing keys solutions to the violence that has taken so many lives on the peninsula. These initiatives range from small scale proven operations like gun buybacks, one of which is taking place June 25 at the Macedonia Baptist Church, as well a bigger, more pre planned move to put an end to the shootings. It will be a part of the city’s $13,340,000 allocation towards public safety, $8,840,000 of which will be a part of anti-violence initiatives across the city.
“We have violence interrupters who are staged in the Rockaways and are Rockaway residents,” Richards said.
As explained by Richards, violence interrupters go out into the community and keep in touch with gang members and gang leaders in an attempt to preemptively defuse potentially life threatening situations.
Many of the individuals who were selected to be a part of the initiative are people who were once affiliated with gang activity but have since turned their lives around in order to keep community youths off the streets.
“Some of the violence interrupters that were hired from this community were doing this work already,” Richards said. “These individuals are now on the streets talking to people who once looked up to them when they were younger and doing the activity. There’s a respect amongst the community for these violence interrupters. So anytime there is a shooting, they are on the scene bringing awareness to gun violence and pushing back.”
The Cure Violence Initiative is a citywide program that has helped other communities dealing with similar epidemics. Here in Southeast Queens, the program has already been in the works. In South Jamaica, local anti-violence non-profit Life Camp has been developing the Cure Violence program since 2011.
In addition to the efforts to stop the violence directly, the program will fund programs in the arts, a partnership with the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation, which will offer job placement to local young people, as well as efforts to identify the social needs of those prone to getting involved in gun violence, and directing them to city and state funded programs that can provide help.
There will also be efforts in bringing conflict mediation to local schools in order to keep children from gang influences.
“We’re focusing on middle schools,” Richards said, calling out both MS 42 and PS MS 183. “These are two schools where historically we’ve had a lot of gang issues. These are the schools that people say they don’t want to bring their kids to. We’re really trying to put a dent in some of the things that these young people would go out and do and trying to catch them before high school. In some cases a bad influence may have caught up to them already. In those cases, it’s all about getting them to rethink it so that the rest of their lives are not ruined by these decisions.”
Richards believes that by creating what he called “a network” of programs to help Far Rockaway on the streets, in the faith based communities and in schools, gun violence in the Rockaways will finally get the attention that it deserves.
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123, email@example.com or @theloniusly