The District of Connecticut's Project Sentry program enables the U.S. Attorney's Office to expand its primary and traditional prosecutorial role in the community by reaching out to juveniles in an effort to deter juvenile gun crime and gang activity, and to promote school safety. In this regard, the Project Sentry seeks to:
- spread the message to at-risk youth that there are serious consequences associated with being involved with firearms and gangs;
- increase the investigation and prosecution of adults who furnish juveniles with firearms juveniles who possess firearms; and
- improve school safety.
Project Sentry also has enhanced, established and expanded partnerships with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, federal, state and municipal governments, community groups and the faith community. In order to encourage youth participation in workshops on nonviolence we employed basketball tournaments and other social activities. To play in the basketball tournaments, youth were required to attend the workshops that were held the previous day. We also have used other fun activities to provide a forum to present our nonviolent message, including Camp DEFY, events within our Weed and Seed sites and Police Basketball Camps (Officer Friendly Camps).
In 2003, the Department of Justice announced that the City of Hartford's Project Sentry Task Force was one of 14 recipients of the First Annual Project Safe Neighborhoods Achievement Awards. At a ceremony during the 2003 National Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the task force received the award for "Exceptional Juvenile Gun Crime Reduction Program".
With respect to our goal of promoting school safety, Project Sentry has expanded Safe School Task Forces in Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport. Project Sentry has also become a regular part of school's curriculums in PSN target cities and, since 2002, the violence prevention message has been given to thousands of students.
In addition to promoting the anti-violence message in Connecticut's schools, many partnerships have been formed to benefit at-risk youth in our communities.
Over the past several years, we have had a very successful partnership with the New Britain Rock Cats, the minor league affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. Through both our PSN/Anti-Gang and Weed and Seed sites, we have sent thousands of children to minor league baseball games in New Britain during the baseball season. In addition to seeing the game and eating dinner at the game, each child receives a T-shirt, a baseball and a baseball glove, meets and talks with the baseball players prior to the start of the game, and is allowed onto the field to throw baseballs to each other and to the players. The players serve both as role models and as mentors for the children. The goal of the program is to provide children who live in our larger cities with opportunities to attend and enjoy a baseball game with their peers and to talk with and meet positive role models. In addition, because the children who attend these games are selected through the Weed and Seed programs in our various cities and in conjunction with our local police departments, the children get to interact with one or more officers who chaperone the group to and from the game and who most often work in the neighborhood where these children live. With the help of a private company, the Rock Cats also have provided free bicycles to hundreds of children identified through the PSN and Weed and Seed initiatives.
The U.S. Attorney's office, in conjunction with Project Sentry, also has provided innovative training sessions for school resource officers and school administrators directed at teaching them how to develop effective youthful offender and gang intervention initiatives in their schools. As part of this effort, the Office collaborated with the hip hop group 4Peace to promote an anti-violence and anti-gang message at training sessions and, in May 2009, Yale University’s School of Music sponsored a 4Peace concert at Wollsey Hall on the Yale campus and hundreds of high school students from PSN and Weed and Seed cities attended. 4Peace and the Yale Concert Band performed together, and 4Peace engaged the audience in an open discussion about gang activity and violent crime that the students faced in their communities.