A multi-faceted partnership to lower violence in one of Brooklyn’s most beleaguered neighborhoods gets a major boost with the announcement of $599,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Justice. Among those speaking at a press conference to announce the grant are Denise E. O’Donnell, director of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch, and Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes.
This is a transcript:
ROB WOLF: While crime is down across New York City, residents of some neighborhoods still fear gunfire and gangs. One of those neighborhoods is Brownsville, Brooklyn, site of several new programs launched by the Center for Court Innovation to address violence and strengthen community responses. I'm Rob Wolf, director of Communications at the Center for Court Innovation and in this New Thinking podcast, the focus is on the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project, which was the subject of a press conference September 26, 2012, in which the director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice, announced that the project would receive nearly $600,000 in funding out of $11 million in grants distributed to 15 neighborhoods across the U.S. With a siren in the background reminding the audience what was at stake, the Bureau of Justice Assistance Director, Denise O'Donnell, said that the grant was not about the federal government dictating priorities but about empowering communities.
DENISE O’DONNELL: This program is not about the federal government changing neighborhoods. It's about community members and stakeholders working together to identify priorities and solutions to persistent crime problems.
ROB WOLF: O'Donnell was joined at the podium in the Heritage Room of the Stone Avenue Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library by a number of officials, including New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who said his department was always willing to test new ideas.
RAY KELLY: You know, when it comes to driving crime down or saving lives, I can assure you that the New York City Police Department is open to new ideas. Anything that has the potential to save lives and make this community safer, we're for it, and we see in the Brownsville Anti-Violence Program some very strong potential.
ROB WOLF: District Attorney Charles J. Hynes described call-ins, a key feature of the Brownsville Anti-Violence Program, in which recent parolees are offered services and encouragement while, at the same time, being reminded of the serious consequences they face if they get into trouble again.
CHARLES HYNES: The past two months we have partnered with the Center for Court Innovation, United States Attorney Lynch, Commissioner Kelly, and the NYPD in implementing an evidence-based gun violence reduction strategy with Project Safe Neighborhoods call-in forums. These call-in forums send a clear message to those with violent pasts who are reentering the Brownsville community after incarceration, to desist from picking up guns, that gang life is a dead end, and that we stand ready to help anyone who wants to be on the productive trail.
ROB WOLF: The real life importance of the grant was underscored by Mark Tannis, a community leader.
MARK TANNIS: With this grant, in conjunction with VJA, we can have a coordinated effort to get guns off the street. Stop the gun violence. By far, the large majority of our community want safe streets and a sense of peace, where they all call home. Unfortunately, too many times that tranquility is shattered by senseless gun violence.
ROB WOLF: The Brownsville Anti-Violence Program works closely with the community, according to James Brodick, director of the Brownsville Community Justice Center.
JAMES BRODICK: We started to do a community wide survey and focus groups. And time after time after time we hear common themes. Theme number one is a lack of opportunities for young people. And we understand that it’s very clear that we need to get our young people better education, job readiness, and actual jobs. But what we also hear is that there are real issues with gangs and guns, and unfortunately as much as people say one of the ways of solving this problem is opening up more after school centers, or opening up you know, opening up a community center, if young people don't feel comfortable to cross Van Dyke to the Brownsville Houses, we can't get past that. And again, you know, one of the things that the Center for Court Innovation is here to do today, is what we bring to the table is an expertise in research and expertise in trying to convene people to solve problems, but we're not the ones who are going to solve the problem by ourselves. It's gonna be the systems, the partners, and most importantly the community.
ROB WOLF: U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, whose office is a partner in the Anti-Violence Initiative, said the Department of Justice's anti-violence strategy has three legs.
LORETTA LYNCH: Our anti-violence strategy consists of what has been described, really as the three-legged stool. Each piece equally important. Prevention—you've heard about the youth programs. Let's prevent this crime from occurring. Let's keep people safe. Targeted prosecution—and yes, we're here to do that. And re-entry assistance—because we all know that to send people home, back into the same environment and issues and conflicts that led them into violence in the first place, is just creating a vicious cycle.
ROB WOLF: For more on the Brownsville Anti-Violence Program or the Brownsville Community Justice Center, or other podcasts in our series, you can visit our website www.courtinnovation.org. You can also subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes. And feel free to like the Center for Court Innovation on our Facebook page. I'm Rob Wolf, director of Communications at the Center for Court Innovation. Thanks for listening.