ROMNEY APPROVES $11 MILLION PLAN TO TARGET GANG VIOLENCE
New initiative part of $53 million supplemental budget bill
Governor Mitt Romney today signed legislation that establishes a state grant program to help communities devise and implement innovative new approaches to fight gang violence. The grants will be distributed after a competitive application process and will be targeted to communities with the highest levels of gang activity.
The gang prevention program is part of a $53 million supplemental budget Romney signed. Other funding goes to veterans programs, corrections and various collective bargaining agreements.
"Gang violence destroys the fabric of our communities and offers nothing but a dead end street to young people drawn in by false hope," said Romney. "This program will encourage communities to develop and pursue promising new strategies that stop the mayhem and bloodshed that gangs inflict."
The $11 million gang prevention program supports communities that have employed or propose to adopt regional strategies to combat gang violence. These may include coordinated prevention and intervention programs, regional gang task forces, crime mapping and reintegration strategies to prevent ex-convicts from returning to a life of crime.
To qualify for grants, communities must show high levels of youth violence, gang problems and substance abuse. Additionally, communities must propose regional strategies that partner with all relevant law enforcement agencies as well as community organizations. Grant applicants must commit to providing a 25 percent local match from municipal or private sources.
The program will be administered by the Executive Office of Public Safety, which will develop application guidelines before April 15, 2006. To make sure that maximum funding is directed at gang activity, state administrative costs are capped at $100,000 and local administrative expenditures may not exceed three percent of the value of the grant. The grants will be made in 2006.
"Reducing gang and youth violence is our top priority for safer streets and neighborhoods but we can't expect cities to go it alone," said Senator Jarrett Barrios, Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. "We have to invest in smart crime prevention - on what we know works. The grant aims to support programs that build bridges between neighborhood groups and police, and for giving youth opportunities to escape the temptation to join gangs."
"Today's bill signing establishing an $11 million anti-gang prevention grant program is a giant step forward in our battle against gang violence, and will significantly help our cities and towns combat this very serious public safety issue," said Representative Stephen Canessa, a co-sponsor of the anti-gang initiative. "Gang violence transcends party politics and I applaud all involved parties - from community activists to political leaders to our law enforcement officials - who have been instrumental in seeing this bill come to fruition."
"Witnesses are too afraid to come forward to testify out of fear of retaliation against them or their loved ones," said Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey. "The additional funding will help prevention efforts, but Massachusetts also needs tougher laws to punish witness intimidation and a program that helps prosecutors protect courageous witnesses."
"By strategically and significantly funding innovative, proven programs in the communities that need the most help, we have the opportunity for some real victories in the fight against gang violence," said Public Safety Secretary Edward A. Flynn.