A widely successful anti-violence program that has helped other cities around the state deal with the scourge of gun violence is coming to the Bronx.
The SNUG program, an acronyms for ‘guns’ spelled backwards, brings violence mediators into the streets to help diffuse gun and gang situations that could turn violent.
The mediators, known as “violence interrupters,” are former gang members and street-wise people not affiliated with law enforcement who can speak to gang and crew members one-on-one at street corners and locations identified as hot spots.
The program has proven widely successful in nearby Yonkers, and was brought to the Bronx through Senator Jeff Klein, who secured a $300,000 grant from the state’s Department of Criminal Justice Services to the Jacobi Medical Center Auxiliary, which will run the program, .
Information is already gathered at Jacobi to help gun-shot victims. Jacobi will contribute another $50,000 to the program, budgeted for two years.
“SNUG’s aggressive and proven approach makes it clear to our young people that guns and gang violence do not need to be a way of life,” said Klein. “Our violence interrupters can reach these kids in a way that no one else can,” he added. “Their inspiring stories teach kids that gun violence is not worth the tragedy and jail time that too often tear apart our communities.”
The violence interrupters are not affiliated with local law enforcement, and they will be identified by Rev. Joseph Gooding of Fellowship Tabernacle Ministries in Williamsbridge.
“This is a very significant program that we are bringing to The Bronx,” Gooding said at the announcement at Jacobi on Friday, Feb. 7. “In my line of work I eulogize a lot of young men from street violence. I believe that this is a way that we can save lives.”
Basing the program at the hospital is a first. Similar programs are usually based at local community organizations, said Jacobi Associate Director Hannah Nelson.
Jacobi’s resident gun violence prevention activist, Dr. Sheldon Teperman, a board member of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said at the news conference that the interrupters bring “street cred,” meaning street credibility, to the program.
“Approaching the gun violence epidemic with a community-centered violence prevention program,” he said, “is the most effective way of ensuring these kids never get injured or have to cross through the doors of our Emergency Room.”
Joining Klein at the conference were Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda and Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, who all praised Klein for bringing the SNUG program to the borough.
Community leaders and hospital reps also expressed their support, including 49th Precinct Community Council President Joe Thompson; Community Board 10 Chairman John Marano; Jacobi’s Dr. Stephen Blumberg; Elizabeth Thompson, a member of the North Central Bronx Hospital’s Community Advisory Board who lost a 19-year-old son to gun violence; and Leah Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.