Mia Cortés Castro, Contributing Photographer

On March 28, almost four months after stepping into the role, Reuel Parks — New Haven’s first violence prevention coordinator — notified the Mayor’s office of his resignation. 

Parks, a longtime parole officer and community member, originally stepped into his role on Jan 4. Though passionate about what his position does for the city, Parks made a “personal decision” to step down from the role. He will instead continue his work as the technical director of Community Hands In Action Mentoring Program, or CHAMP — an organization he founded in 2014 that provides mentorship to children who present at-risk behavior. He will also continue to serve as a member of the Hamden Board of Education.

“I’m passionate about working to make our communities safer and deeply believe in the mission and work of the Office of Violence Prevention,” Parks wrote in a statement to the News. “However, this particular position was simply not the right fit for me personally at this time.”

While in the position, Parks was in charge of coordinating programming and efforts aimed at reducing community violence. Forming collaborations between various New Haven departments, agencies and organizations, the coordinator role takes steps to increase New Haveners’ access and use of these programs. With a combination of prevention, intervention and support, the violence prevention coordinator’s programs target individuals, groups and communities who are either involved in or prone to violence. The coordinator mostly works towards specifically reducing gun violence.

In addition, the coordinator is also the leader of PRESS, New Haven’s Program for Reintegration, Engagement, Safety and Support. The program, which the city launched in April 2022, is a collaborative effort to reduce gun violence around the city, involving departments including the New Haven Police Department and the city’s Community Service Administration.

Parks’s decision to step down from the role has shocked many community members who looked forward to seeing his contributions to the city.

“I was disappointed to hear of his resignation,” said Leonard Jahad, executive director of the Connecticut Violence Intervention Program. “I hoped he could impact the expansion of PRESS to achieve its goal of creating a true collaboration between local and state municipalities as well as local nonprofits in their shared mission of reducing community violence.”

Mayor Justin Elicker, however, said he supports Parks’ decision to leave the role. Elicker asserted that the programs New Haven has in place for violence prevention will “continue uninterruptedly.” He expressed that he is committed to continue working on these programs, but feels satisfied with the city’s current progress.

While the Elicker administration searches for Parks’ permanent replacement, they have appointed executive director for the Department of Community Resilience Carlos Sosa-Lombardo to serve as the interim violence prevention coordinator.

 “While it’s unfortunate that Mr. Parks’ tenure was a short one, I can also appreciate that he thought the position was not the right fit for him personally at this time,” said Elicker. “For the right person, the coordinator position promises to be a really meaningful and impactful one, spearheading important and innovative initiatives that are already underway as well as developing new pilots and programs that will help us further advance the work violence prevention and interruption.”

Parks’ last day as violence prevention coordinator will be April 12.

Mia Cortés Castro covers City Hall and State Politics, and previously covered Cops and Courts. Originally from Dorado, Puerto Rico, she is a sophomore in Branford College studying English.