by Karima Amin
It was December of 2009 when Senators Malcolm A. Smith and Antoine Thompson announced the advent of “Operation SNUG” (“guns” spelled backward) and we learned that several Erie County community organizations would receive $500,000 for the prevention of gun violence. At that time, Senator Smith said, “Today marks a turning point in community safety…. Gun violence affects us all- white or black, rich or poor, illegal guns terrorize neighborhoods and tear apart families. For too long, the deadly specter of illegal guns has gone unchecked. In cities across the state, our children are dying at the hands of gun violence, but through our commitment to SNUG, we can put a stop to that deadly trend now and return our streets to their rightful owners, the people of New York.”
Senator Thompson concurred, saying, “Gang violence and illegal gun use has been a problem in Buffalo and across the state for too long. Operation SNUG will hopefully cut down on excessive gang violence that many communities face.”
On February 5, 2014, Senator Tim Kennedy announced the re-launching of “Operation SNUG,” awarding $366, 400 to Back to Basics Outreach Ministries, which is implementing a targeted neighborhood violence prevention project. Believing in the promise of “Operation SNUG,” Senator Kennedy said, “This funding will target neighborhoods hardest hit by street violence and apply a tried-and-tested model of street outreach and violence intervention to cut down on gang activity and reduce violent crime from the frontlines.”
Pastor James E. Giles, President/CEO of Back to Basics Outreach Ministries said, “These state resources will allow us to implement a Cure Violence program, enhance the work of the Buffalo Peacemakers and keep violence interrupters on the streets looking out for our neighbors and preventing crime.” Back to Basics is one of seven groups across the state that have received state funding to implement a coordinated, community-based strategy that seeks to prevent violent crime and encourage high-risk youth to avoid criminal activity and instead pursue positive opportunities.
Time has passed. Has SNUG been a success? Is there more or less gun violence today than we had in 2009? What has been the community’s response to “Buffalo SNUG?”
If you want to know the answers to these questions, come to our next monthly meeting to meet Rahel Weldeysesus. She is the Program Manager for “Buffalo SNUG.” She previously served as the Program Development Director at Back to Basics. For two years, she was the Community Relations Director for New York State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt. When I first met her, she was the Development Coordinator for Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York. She is diligent and passionate about her work.
Our next meeting will be on Monday, October 27, at 7:00-9:00pm at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo. For more information: 716-834-8438 or Karima@prisonersare peopletoo.org or BaBa Eng, firstname.lastname@example.org.
“God has not called us to see through each other, but to see each other through.” (Anonymous)