What do you do when your community has had more that 232 shootings in several years? In Yonkers, you call the YMCA.
SNUG was established to help local law enforcement and anti-violence community groups steer at-risk New Yorkers away from a culture of violence. SNUG, which is guns spelled backward, was created in response to a phenomenal number of shootings and killings in 10 communities in New York State and follows the Chicago CeaseFire Model.
Since we were able to implement this program in mid-November 2010 we were able to recruit many high profile Yonkers youth that are considered most likely to pull a gun. Through activities like violence mediation, cookouts, employment coaching and training, basketball tournaments, and extremely late night street presence (some nights, 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.), the credible messengers of YMCA SNUG really get to know today’s shooters. They are credible because the team members have a background in the streets and know how to work them. The YMCA’s 5 member street team has a combined total of more than 60 years of incarceration because of violence and other criminal activity but demonstrated positive lifestyle change before being chosen by a panel of community leaders that include law enforcement. This gives them credibility with those that glorify the streets, crime, and prison life along with a policy of no information being shared with the police, it makes them credible messengers with youth involved with the streets now. Relationships developed this way have helped some of the youth begin a new way of life for themselves.
If you were to attend one of the three different gang/violence coalition meetings that take place in Yonkers you would hear the excitement of the other agencies regarding the YMCA’s Operation SNUG. It has caused the YMCA to become the one of the center organizations for two National Night Out events, with the Yonkers Police Department. We are one of the few organizations allowed to do outreach in Municipal Housing Authority areas through cookouts and other similar events; and we are generally the first organization called to mediate violent situations around the community besides the police.
At the end of its first year of operation Project SNUG has helped to reduce shootings and killings by 39% in Yonkers. In the zones covered by SNUG shootings are down by 80%. As a result SNUG has received awards and proclamations from Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Mayor Michael Spano, Yonkers City Council, Nepperhan Community Center, and the African American Heritage Committee.
For many YMCAs this would sound like a herculean effort. In Yonkers, it’s who we are and what we believe is the calling of the YMCA to social responsibility. Whether it is a soup kitchen program, housing, violence prevention, employment training, or the general activities that many YMCA’s offer the community, it’s need, it’s about justice, and it’s about people. Dwight L. Moody, and early executive of the YMCA movement believed, “If you can really make a man believe you love him, you have won him.” What can be a better YMCA philosophy than that? Project SNUG is a winning program.
Thank you to Charles “Flip” Barnette (outreach supervisor), Eugene “Bosco” Jackson (outreach worker), Gregory “Humza” Myers (outreach worker), Hanif Walker (outreach worker), Keith “K” Guinyard (violence interrupter), and John Thompson (program manager).
Welcome to our new SNUG team members!
Luis Charbonier, Outreach Worker
Fawn Barnes, Outreach Worker
Tania Bell, Office Manager
Tonia Jenkins-Morrison, Special Events Coordinator
Vincent, Taliaferro, Job Developer