Baker-Polito Administration Awards $5.6 Million to Reduce Youth Gang and Gun-Related Violence

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito Administration’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services today announced that 12 cities have been selected to participate in the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI) and will receive a total of $5.6 million in grants to work with high-risk young men to reduce gang and gun-related violence across the Commonwealth.

The Safe and Successful Youth Initiative is a proven violence prevention strategy that integrates law enforcement, education, employment, public health and youth development agencies to identify and reach out to young men ages 17-24 in the community, detention centers and correction facilities.

“Reducing the risk for violence and gang involvement is important to reducing crime and supporting a successful future for our youth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “I’m proud these resources will support safer communities and opportunities for our next generation.”

The young men selected by law enforcement to participate in the program are known to law enforcement because they: repeatedly engage in weapons violence or crimes against people; were a victim of weapons violence or a crime; engages in high-volume, drug-related criminal activity; or are in a leadership role in gang or street violence.

Law enforcement and partnering community agencies work together with the young men to help them obtain jobs, degrees and connections to caring adults. Depending on the individual’s needs, they are  referred to appropriate services such as tutoring, occupational training, work readiness skills training, trauma counseling, peer support and substance abuse prevention. The young men receive case management, service coordination, progress monitoring and transition planning throughout the process.

“I applaud the efforts of the 12 law enforcement agencies that are taking the lead to protect youth and provide positive opportunities,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “This initiative connects youth with education, employment training, counseling and the tools necessary to follow a positive path.”

The SSYI program has been shown to be extremely effective. When the highest, and hardest-to-reach, youth are engaged in the program they reduce their risk of committing violent crimes. Overall, SSYI found that approximately 70 percent of the youth targeted received services between 2011 and 2013. The majority of youth (70 percent) received case management services and job training (54 percent) and about a third (31 percent) received mental health treatment.

“SSYI is a direct strategy to engage the highest-risk youth at a time in their lives when they have few choices,” said Secretary Marylou Sudders. “Through intervention and services to support the whole person – physical, mental and behavioral health– youth will be in a better place to make decisions that can change their lives.”

A recent study conducted by the American Institutes for Research and WestEd found that, of nine cities that participated in SSYI had fewer homicides (1 less per month), fewer aggravated assaults (65 less per month) and fewer violent crimes (139 fewer per month) than non-SSYI cities. The study also found that SSYI participation reduced the likelihood that youth at the greatest risk for serious violence would become incarcerated.

SSYI is a competitive grant process open to 20 cities that are identified based on violent crime between 2011 and 2013. The cities selected to participate in the program are: Worcester, Lawrence, Lowell, Fall River, Pittsfield, Boston, Holyoke, New Bedford, Lynn, Chelsea, Springfield and Brockton.

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