Local leaders meet to talk gun prevention

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UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY-TV) – Earlier this month Governor Cuomo declared a disaster emergency to address the issue of gun violence. Along with this declaration, the governor is investing over $150 million for intervention, prevention, and job programs to engage youth in the community. Local leaders met with a representative from the governor’s office today at Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC) to talk about what this will look like here in Utica.

The youth job program will be introduced across the state to move kids into jobs and away from gun violence. Part of the money being invested by Governor Cuomo will be put towards the program. 186 state-funded jobs will become available to people age 15 through 24, and available now are 66 state funded summer jobs. The Workforce Development Board, Department of Labor and Social Services office can help people get placed in those jobs.

“Summer youth jobs are fantastic, but we know we need to create real living wages and career paths,” said Sheila Poole, commissioner of the NY State Office of Youth and Family Services.

They also discussed introducing violence interrupters into local hospitals. Violence interrupters are respected community figures separate from the hospital staff or law enforcement who can step in to help immediately after a violent tragedy has occurred.

Oneida County Sheriff, Robert Maciol explained, “They’re there to comfort the family. They’re there to comfort the victim. They’re there to immediately initiate, and it’s not going to happen that moment because they’re being treated at the hospital, but to begin to plant the seed to divert this person maybe from that lifestyle into a more positive lifestyle where they can begin the process of getting them a real job not just a temporary summer job.”

Violence interruption programs hope to eliminate further violence after a shooting has occurred. Leaders also discussed at today’s meeting was how to optimize schools in the summer as a space for kids to gather and stay off the streets. the leaders at today’s meeting hope input from youth and educators in the community will help bring further change. They say educators can play a crucial role in bringing an end to gun violence.

“Today was just the beginning of a conversation,” Poole said. “We asked folks to go back, think of new ideas that we can do in the more short term as well as long term. It was a good beginning.”

“The governor’s office will host more meetings of this nature in the future and they hope to have more ideas brought in from the community.

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