By Jeff Mays
HARLEM—A program that uses ex-gang members to target those most likely to shoot someone or be shot is in danger of losing its funding several months after launching.
Operation SNUG— guns spelled backwards— is modeled after the successful Ceasefire Chicago Program. Funded with a $4 million grant from the state senate, it uses ex-gang members and the formerly incarcerated to prevent shootings and to disrupt situations that escalate toward violence.
"We are working to continue the funding because there is no question that it is not a one year problem," said Harlem senator Bill Perkins. "It is a protracted struggle and, to some extent, it is overwhelming."
The proposed cut comes as New York state tries to close a $10 billion budget deficit.
Operation SNUG will rally for funding in a march at 2:30 p.m. Sunday from United Nations Plaza at First Avenue and 42nd Street to Times Square.
The program targets young people most at-risk to be involved in gun violence and provides them with mentors and resources to change their lives in eight at-risk locations around the state. In Harlem, the program is run by the New York City Mission Society.
"SNUG allows the outreach workers and violence interrupters to have an interaction with the target population and say: 'You do not have to live like this. I changed. Let me give you some other options. Let me bring you in and show you a different way,'" said Holmes.
In 2007, there were only about 20 youth gangs in Harlem. Now, there are 40, police officials report. That's why the work of SNUG is so important, said Holmes.
"This is not a program but a campaign to stop violence and killings and provide other services," said Holmes.
"We need to build this out and the only way to do that is to have additional funding."
Now that workers have been out in the street making contact with gang members and those at risk, a sudden departure could do more harm than good," said Holmes.
"To get this population to trust you is hard. Now that they trust us we are going to disappear like everyone else? It's extremely important to not only have a reappropriation, but continued funding at levels that work."