On Tuesday, March 12, local officials, mayors and city managers, community leaders, law enforcement officers, and youth gathered at the State House for Community Safety Day on the Hill. Speakers addressed a standing room-only crowd to discuss effective ways of combating youth and gang violence, to educate attendees about the importance of supporting youth violence prevention programs, and to call on the Legislature and Governor to increase funding to $10 million for the Senator Charles E. Shannon Community Safety Initiative (Shannon Grant) and $10 million for the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI).
"Wherever there’s Shannon and SSYI, the crime rate goes down, the homicide rate goes down," said Boston Police Department Commissioner William Gross. "And this is sending the message to everyone looking that people care about these communities."
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 has decreased continuously since 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 visit legislators to ask for $10 million in funding for each program in FY20.
In addition to Commissioner Gross, speakers included Representative Adrian Madaro, Mayor Curtatone of Somerville, Assistant Undersecretary of Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice Angela F.F. Davis, Representative Andy Vargas, and Senator Joseph Boncore. Attendees also heard powerful testimony from Miguel Cabrera, a youth artist mentor at the Center for Teen Empowerment Boston.
Cabrera, a 19-year-old from Dorchester, said the program gave him "direction" and dialogue sessions with youth and police officers helped build understanding between the two groups. "I would always invest in Teen Empowerment," he said. "Since I'm not a billionaire, I'm glad there are programs like the Shannon Grant funding their work."
Click through the slideshow below to see photos from the Day on the Hill!