State backs violence prevention

At a press conference yesterday, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. announced that Connecticut’s State Judicial Branch has awarded the city the second installment of a $750,000 competitive grant to combat youth violence.

In 2012 the Board of Aldermen’s youth services committee chaired by Sarah Eidelson ’12, began brainstorming ways to reduce youth violence, which led to the Youth Violence Prevention grant program. Under this initiative, 22 community outreach organizations have received funding — ranging from $9,780 to $50,000 — to stimulate their youth programming efforts. State support for the Elm City’s violence prevention program was disbursed in two rounds, with the first $250,000 portion covering February 2013 to June 2013, and the second $500,000 piece running from July 2013 to June 2014. The latter portion of the grant was officially awarded to the city yesterday.

“The new initiative aims to prevent violence among youth before it even begins and is one more tactic we are employing to achieve the city’s top public safety goal: reducing violence,” DeStefano said during his press conference. He noted the city’s other outreach efforts including community policing, the Shooting Task Force and Street Outreach workers.

In early 2012, the Board of Aldermen spearheaded a Comprehensive Youth Agenda to steer the city’s youth away from violence by funding organizations in the city that support youth development. The initiative came in the wake of a violent 2011 calendar year, when 34 homicides were committed in New Haven. Of those 34 people killed, half of them were 25 and under, according to City-Data.com.

In 2013, members of the Board of Aldermen’s Youth Services Committee joined forces with the city’s Community Services Administration, United Way of Greater New Haven and New Haven Public Schools to tackle the problem of youth violence plaguing the city. These entities collaborated with the mayoral office to develop the Youth Violence Prevention grant program. Though the grant program has already issued funding to youth organizations around the city, now the Elm City has garnered the financial support of the state.

Organizations, such as New Haven Family Alliance, which promotes parent education and skill building, and the Higher Heights Youth Empowerment Program, which offers high school and college planning services, underwent a competitive application process and proved their that services yield results before they acquired funding. With these grants, the groups will employ the strategies identified by the CDC as critical in preventing youth violence — pro-social interventions, mentorship programs and youth job training and readiness skills programs.

Providing pro-social experiences and helping people handle their emotional distress without showing aggression, will be particularly effective in the city’s efforts to prevent youth violence,said City Hall spokeswoman Anna Mariotti.

“I think learning how to deal with anger or uncomfortable situations without resorting to violence will be greatly beneficial,” Mariotti said. “There is no one variable that will make everything perfect, but this plan is a step in the right direction.”

Eidelson released a statement calling the support for the initiative an “essential step forward.” She said the Board of Aldermen will continue to prioritize its Comprehensive Youth Agenda in order to strengthen adolescent services citywide, since youth violence remains high in New Haven.

“We were thrilled to be able to fund programs that do such extraordinary work in our community,” Eidelson said.

According to DataHaven’s 2013 Greater New Haven Community Index, between 2000 and 2010, assault was the cause of 32 percent of total deaths among all men aged 15–34 in the New Haven area.

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