News and Press Releases

Salinas One Of Just 13 Communities To Receive Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Award

November 1, 2012

SALINAS, Calif. – Salinas was one of just 13 cities throughout the country, the only city in California, to receive a Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Grant Award, United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Salinas Community leaders announced this afternoon at the Salinas City Hall Rotunda. The $500,000 PSN Grant award will help the city continue its reduction in youth and gang violence.

“A total of $4 million was allocated on a national basis for PSN awards. This was a highly competitive grant and only thirteen awards were made in the entire country. This is the only PSN award in the State of California,” U.S. Attorney Haag said. “I want to recognize Mayor Donohue, Chief McMillin, Director Mendoza and Executive Director Brian Contreras as well as the members of CASP for all of your hard work. Your efforts brought this outstanding award to Salinas and the Northern District of California. I look forward working with you on this innovative new violence reduction initiative and continuing to implement Salinas’ Comprehensive Strategy for Community-wide Violence Reduction Plan.”

PSN is a U.S. Department of Justice program designed to create safer neighborhoods through a sustained reduction in crime associated with gang and gun violence. The program’s effectiveness is based on the cooperation of local, state and federal agencies engaged in a unified approach led by the U.S. Attorney in each district throughout the country. PSN focuses on a collaborative approach of local, state and federal law enforcement and local community members to implement gang and gun crime enforcement, intervention and prevention initiatives. Successful PSN initiatives are based on five design features – partnerships, strategic planning, training, outreach, and accountability including data-driven efforts.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and a constellation of federal agencies have worked collaboratively with Salinas for more than three years to address gun, gang and violent crime through an impressive approach that incorporates all of the core elements of a successful PSN program. The partnership resulted in a 2009 Gang Crime Summit bringing together over 100 senior law enforcement officials from the local, state and federal levels to address gang crime in Salinas. A variety of highly successful enforcement operations have taken place since 2009. The Gang Crime Summit also included a half day meeting with the newly formed Community Alliance for Safety and Peace (CASP). This partnership between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the community and law enforcement continues as a cornerstone of the PSN program in Salinas.

This new PSN grant will allow the City of Salinas to continue its efforts in the reduction of youth and gang violence. The city, as a partner of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, joined with CASP to create and implement the Salinas Plan. The Salinas Plan was developed through a collaboration of a diverse, multidisciplinary group with the common purpose of creating a safer and healthier community. The Salinas Plan will continue to address the issue of gang, gun and violent crime using innovative and holistic strategies in the diverse fields of prevention, intervention, enforcement and re-entry, incorporating the partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal agencies and engaging the community in a meaningful and robust manner with a particular emphasis on youth.

The PSN grant will fund the development and implementation of an innovative violence interrupter program to augment current anti-violence efforts. For 24 months, violence interrupters will work with gang members, leaders, friends and family to stem retaliatory violence following a shooting and pro-actively mediate conflict between gangs that may involve drugs, revenge, territory, race, women and perceived acts of disrespect before violence occurs. It has been established that the use of violence interrupters has made a significant impact and is recognized as an innovative approach in the criminal justice field. Violence interrupters have been deployed with proven success in four cities: Boston, Chicago, Brooklyn and Baltimore.

The multi-year PSN grant will fund the violence interrupter program through Second Chance Family and Youth Services. Second Chance Family and Youth Services staff has been trained by Teny Gross, who helped establish Boston’s successful Ceasefire program. Mr. Gross will help recruit and train field violence interrupters for this grant. The violence interrupters will work with current gang members, affiliates and families to prevent retaliatory violence following violent crimes and proactively mediate conflicts to avoid further violence. Violence interrupters are individuals with a unique set of characteristics and experiences that allow them to have the street credibility and expertise in understanding how different communities are impacted by gang violence and to reach out to make a difference. Trained violence interrupters can relate to those on the street committing violent crime.

The City of Salinas understands that crime prevention is a community problem and a community responsibility. The Mayor and Chief of Police have laid the foundation for public and private partnerships and have met with business and foundation representatives who have expressed support for this program. Building these relationships will follow the continuum of public safety approach known as PIER (Prevention – Intervention – Enforcement – Reentry), which are pillars of the Salinas Plan.

“I am pleased that we continue to make progress on gaining significant resources to implement a comprehensive multi-dimensional strategy to become a more peaceful community. In particular, I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for unwavering support of Salinas," stated Mayor Dennis Donohue.

“Any comprehensive approach to youth violence prevention must include a robust street outreach program, one that places highly skilled and trained street intervention workers on the street to meet with youth where they congregate,” said Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin. “Skilled street workers are able to keep tabs on the ‘temperature’ of the streets and intervene before young people make bad decisions about violence and retaliation. While independent of the police department, our goals are the same: reducing youth violence and creating a safer Salinas.”

“Too many young people are losing their lives to violence in Monterey County. We believe that if you want to reduce violence, one of the ways is to reach out and engage those who are most likely to be violent,” said Brian Contreras, Executive Director, Second Chance Family and Youth Services. “We know it will take more to heal this community, but this effort is just one way in which we hope to make a difference in Salinas. It will take all of us in a united front to effect change in our community. We, too, are extremely appreciative of the support provided through the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, and the City of Salinas.”



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