Monday, October 1, 2012

Brownsville's Anti-Violence Project Receives Federal Funding

On Tuesday, September 25, 2012, at a press conference attended by community leaders, local officials, and representatives from several federal agencies, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, through its Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program, awarded $600,000 in grant funding to the Brownsville Community Justice Center to support Brownsville’s Anti-Violence Project.  The press conference was held in the Heritage Room at the Stone Avenue branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. 

Launched in August, the Anti-Violence Project seeks to improve public safety in Brownsville and enhance local perceptions of justice.  The project will pursue these goals through two major efforts.  First, monthly “call-in” forums where parolees returning to the neighborhood meet with law enforcement, social service providers, and ex-offenders who have put their lives back on track.  Participants at these meetings receive a targeted, three-pronged message: that future violent behavior will be rigorously prosecuted at the state and federal levels; that many ex-offenders have successfully and positively re-entered the community; and that individuals seeking help will receive the community and service providers’ support.  The second major effort involves a public education campaign to promote non-violence and promote cooperation between residents and local law enforcement. 

Many of the project’s community and government partners addressed the crowd gathered at the press conference.  U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch observed that the gun violence in Brownsville was something that “we can’t prosecute our way out of… but we will prosecute [those who participate in violence].”  Her remarks were echoed by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes who focused on the Anti-Violence Project’s commitment to re-entry services for parolees returning to the community.  New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly emphasized the drastic drop in crime rates around the city while acknowledging the need for greater strides in communities like Brownsville.  Commissioner Kelly expressed the Department’s enthusiastic commitment to the Anti-Violence Project saying, “[The NYPD] is open to any good ideas for reducing crime.”

One of the stars of the conference was Mark Tanis of the Pitkin Avenue Business Improvement District, who passionately described his life-long ties to Brownsville and expressed the desire to see the neighborhood’s streets returned to the safer thoroughfares he fondly remembered from his youth. On behalf of the community he conveyed the hope that this grant funding would be put to good use.  He finished by saying, “the more shoulders, the lighter the load.”  Denise O’Donnell, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, remarked that while the library was a beautiful and incredible asset to the neighborhood, “one of the greatest assets is clearly community members [like Mark Tanis].”

Many community members in attendance had questions about the program, specifically seeking information about how funds will be distributed and the selection process for hiring the Anti-Violence Project Coordinator.  James Brodick, Project Director for the Brownsville Community Justice Center, responded, saying, “We’re committed to hiring locally – and we already have team members [at the Justice Center]… .”  from the community, many of  whom were present at the event.  Brodick went on to explain that the grant called for a six-month planning process during which time input would be solicited from community stakeholders to help determine how the project’s funds would be expended to maximize the grant’s impact.

Tuesday was a great day for Brownsville.  With the help of local partners, community leaders and the federal funding, the prospects for Brownsville’s future are growing brighter every day.

For information about the new initiative contact Deron Johnston, Project Director, Brownsville Community Justice Center, at 347-404-9587.

For further details including links to other press coverage and audio excerpts from the event visit the website of the Center For Court Innovation website, here


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