The Stand Up to Violence program continues to grow at the start of its third year in operation.
The SUV program, which operates in key target areas in the 43rd, 47th and 49th precincts that have been prone to violence, is reporting a 60% to 70% percent reduction in violent incidents in the specific areas where it operates, based on its calculations of crime statistics.
These figures were included in a status report to program stakeholders on Wednesday, April 5 that marked the SUV program’s third year in operation, according to several attendees.
SUV employs former gang members known as ‘violence interrupters’ to serve as mediators between rival gangs to curb violence, said Erika Mendelsohn, program director.
“The whole purpose is to hire and train the only people who are really capable of working with the high risk individuals,” she said. “(This is) as opposed to police officers, who can only arrest and punish them.”
Additionally, SUV holds community marches and rallies in response to shootings at locations where they occur, she said.
Mendelsohn said that SUV is seeing a twofold or threefold in public participation at these rallies and marches that take place shortly after the incidents.
The program is funded through a state grant secured by Senator Jeff Klein that saw a $600,000 allocation in last year’s budget and $700,000 this fiscal year, said a Klein spokesman.
The spokesman added the senator hopes SUV will continue to drive down crime in the borough.
“SUV is a crucial violence prevention program that truly makes the Bronx a safer place,” said Klein
SUV is based at Jacobi Medical Center, which serves as the host agency and conduit for state funding.
“Through the good work that the (SUV) team does, now when there is an incident of violence the community is educated, united and saying ‘no more,’” said a Jacobi spokesman.
SUV’s catchment area is roughly within the blocks around White Plains Road from just north of Pelham Parkway to East 227th Street and in Soundview bounded by Bruckner Boulevard, Bronx River Parkway and the Cross Bronx Expressway.
Pastor Jay Gooding, SUV’s director of community outreach, said that through SUV’s work he has seen gang members laying down their guns and becoming part of the community.
“SUV has played a significant role in the reduction of gun violence,” said Gooding, adding that though SUV’s work is not part of the official police crime statistic reports, the violence interrupters are having an impact.
Joe Thompson, 49th Precinct Community Council president, said that the violence interrupters have the street credibility or ‘street cred’ to reach out to gang members.
By not being an arm of the police, they are able to mediate disputes where police cannot, he said.
He also said it was fair to attribute a part of the violent crime reductions to the work of SUV, allowing that many factors could be at play.
When the program launched in the summer of 2014, some of the shooting responses had eight or ten people attending, added Thompson, explaining that he attended to bolster participation. More recent responses, said Mendelsohn, have included more than 50 people.