On Tuesday, April 6, local officials, mayors and city managers, community leaders, law enforcement officers, and youth gathered for the 2021 Community Safety Day on the Hill: the first virtual gathering in the event's history.
Over 200 people from across Massachusetts tuned in to hear about the importance of supporting youth violence prevention programs, talk about the effectiveness of youth violence prevention programs, and to call on the Legislature and Governor to fund the Senator Charles E. Shannon Community Safety Initiative (Shannon Grant) at $11.3 million and to level-fund the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI) at $10 million.
"We're here today to support and advocate for two critical programs in the Commonwealth: the Shannon Community Safety Initiative and the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative, also known as SSYI," said Rep. Adrian Madaro, the event's master of ceremonies. "The goal is simple but absolutely crucial to our communities, and that's reducing youth violence in Massachusetts, targeting gang violence through targeted programs of prevention and intervention."
The Shannon Grant was established in 2006, when the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition worked with the Legislature to allocate funding to combating youth violence, gang violence, and substance abuse through regional, multi-disciplinary efforts. The program is nationally recognized for its effective approach to deterring gang and youth violence through targeted enforcement and prevention strategies.
Funding for the grant decreased continuously after 2006, resulting in a decrease in enforcement and prevention program implementation such as hotspot patrols and City Peace programs in youth centers. At Community Safety Day on the Hill, people directly benefiting from or connected to these programs – advocates, community leaders, law enforcement officers, youth, local officials, and mayors and city managers – gathered to share their stories, advocate for the Shannon Grant and SSYI, and encourage legislators to support each program in the state budget.
In Rep. Madaro, speakers included Revere Mayor Brian M. Arrigo, Shannon program participant Tatianna Iacoviello from the Revere Police Activities League, EOPSS Undersecretary of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Terry Reidy, EOHHS Undersecretary of Human Services Catherine Mick, Sen. Adam Hinds, Boston Police Department Superintendent Kevin McGoldrick, New England Patriots Captain Devin McCourty, and Sen. Joseph Boncore.
"The Shannon Grant and the Revere Police Activities League has played a significant role in not only my life, but in the Revere community," said Iacoviello, a student and women's basketball player at Salem State. "Shannon Grant funding provides Revere PAL with the resources to offer comprehensive programming for at-risk youth within the community...the supportive system shows youth that anything is possible with opportunity and growth."
"SSYI is now serving over 1700 youth in 14 cities," said Mick. "We have a strong partnership between local police departments, community providers, and state agencies. SSYI identifies youth who are at the highest risk for violence and victimization and by providing outreach, education, and employment services, SSY offers youth a chance to redirect their lives."
Patriots player Devin McCourty pre-recorded a message for legislators and youth (a first for Community Safety Day on the Hill!)
"I'm here because I've seen the effects of programs like this," he said. "When you can give a kid an idea, a plan, when you can give them resources, they have a chance to change the trajectory of their life and their families' lives."