The nonprofit Family Services of Westchester introduced a new violence prevention program to Mount Vernon at the beginning of the month. In an effort to reduce and prevent street violence in one of Westchester’s highest risk communities, SNUG (“guns” spelled backwards) was established in Mount Vernon July 1.
Family Services of Westchester offers comprehensive social and mental health programs and initiatives to the county’s nearly 1 million residents.
Building on the SNUG initiative formed in New York in 2009, the program combines street outreach and violence intervention in localities that have been shown to have high rates of homicides and shootings. SNUG employs street outreach workers, sometimes called “violence interrupters,” who are trained to reduce violence or prevent further violence from occurring.
Mount Vernon’s SNUG street outreach workers are made up of men, formerly affiliated with local street crews and violence, who have since turned their lives around to help thwart aggression, violent acts, and retaliation against shootings and killings in Mount Vernon.
“Family Services of Westchester is grateful for this support and will develop a community-based strategy including neighborhood events and public education activities to help steer young adults away from solving problems using guns and violence. This is one step forward in continuing to keep our community and youth safe,” said Susan Wayne, president and CEO of Family Services of Westchester.
The $275,000 Neighborhood Violence Prevention Project grant was awarded to FSW in February by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced FSW as one of seven programs to share more than $2 million in grants designed to reduce gun violence in communities across New York State. Earlier this year, Cuomo said the funding is a critical investment in New York’s most vulnerable areas that will teach youth that picking up a gun should never be the answer.