Anti-violence activists prepare for summer

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 6/7/2012, 1:38 p.m.
Activists rally against gun violence

Gun prevention program Operation SNUG, which has its headquarters in Harlem, is also bracing for the summer by using its team of street outreach workers to keep shootings under control. Robin Homes-Myers, who serves as the organization's project director, said SNUG is continuing to use the "Operation Ceasefire" model used in Chicago that puts "interrupters" in the middle of high-impact situations.

"One of the things SNUG is thinking about is creating events like a basketball tournament, community panels and a mock funeral to get the attention of folks," Holmes-Myers said. "What we are looking at is getting to those who are likely to be involved in violence. A lot of time, recreation is lacking, and if we can get them to be proactive, things will start to change."

Holmes-Myers added that Operation SNUG is also planning trips that will take young people out of the community for activities like weekend camping trips.

Another champion in the fight to keep Harlem streets safe is Pastor Vernon Williams of Perfect Peace Ministry. Williams is well-known for his on-the-ground involvement on the streets, often being directly in the middle of violent crimes as they happen.

Williams noted that this summer will be especially severe because of what he refers to as an "age up" among gang leaders. Every three years, according to Williams, a new breed of those who commit violent crimes hit the streets in an effort to prove themselves to other teens. The results can be deadly.

"New kids in leadership have to make a name for themselves," he said. "Every time at the end of the school year is going to be crazy--this year is going to be very violent if the community doesn't get involved."

Partnering with New Song Church and the North Star Neighborhood Group, Williams is coming up with strategies to get youth involved and guns off the streets with the community's help.