New initiative to combat gun violence unveiled

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In an effort to thwart gun violence, 450 at-risk youth in Rochester will receive state assistance to the tune of $2.25 million. Rochester is slated to get the second-highest amount from a pot of $16 million.

The funds target workforce training and job placement programs in 20 cities most impacted by gun violence statewide. The initiative treats gun violence as a public health crisis and includes short-term solutions as well as long-term strategies that focus on community-based intervention and prevention strategies to break the cycle of violence, state officials say. 

This funding builds on $12 million announced last week to provide 2,400 jobs to young workers in New York City. The latest round of funds brings the state’s total commitment to reducing gun violence to $154.7 million.

“Gun violence is a public health crisis, in New York State and across the country, and we’re attacking it with the same comprehensive, evidence-based approach we used to beat COVID,” says Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “We know that simply telling kids to put the gun down doesn’t work—we have to give them an alternative.”

On July 6, Cuomo became the first governor nationwide to declare a gun violence disaster emergency.

State data show that Rochester experienced 42 killings due to gun violence in 2020, up from 23 in 2019 and the highest total in the last 10 years. In the first half of 2021, Rochester recorded 23 individuals killed by gun violence, versus 14 in the first six months of 2020—a 64 percent increase.

Republicans were quick to criticize the governor’s gun violence disaster emergency as “political grandstanding.” Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt said “the crisis in cities across our state today directly correlates with the passage of the disastrous bail and other criminal justice “reforms,” an out-of-control Parole Board that has released countless murderers and other dangerous criminals, and calls by Democrats to defund our police.”

Among the 20 recipient cities in the workforce training and job placement initiative, Buffalo gets the lion’s share at $2.65 million, followed by Rochester’s $2.25 million, Yonkers ($1.1 million) and Mount Vernon ($1.05 million). The initiative involves the state Department of Labor, which will partner with local workforce development boards. 

The partnership will help provide job training, credentialing and career placement services, connecting at-risk youth to jobs. Unemployed, underemployed and out-of-school youth ages 18 to 24 in areas of cities impacted by gun violence will be eligible.

“This new funding, for job training and stable, good-paying career placement opportunities for our most vulnerable young people across New York State, does just that,” Cuomo says. “It’s an investment in our economy, in our recovery, and in our security. And it’s a beacon of hope for a generation that too often feels bereft of it.”

Youth will be referred by community service providers. Referrals from gun violence interveners and other anti-gun violence advocacy organizations will be given preference. Efforts will also include support services and referrals to partner agencies to assist with housing, legal issues and other barriers to successful training and employment, officials say.

Participants can explore jobs, careers and trades in areas such as:

■ truck, bus and automobile mechanical repair and maintenance;

■ commercial driving;

■ construction management;

■ culinary, baking and food service;

■ health care;

■ building trades apprenticeships;

■ IT software and support;

■ cybersecurity;

■ building services; and

■ hospitality and tourism.

Nonprofits can refer individuals here

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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