Measure Aims to Assist Programs Focused on Turning Kids Away From Gangs
TRENTON – Legislation Senator John Girgenti sponsored to establish a grant program to benefit youth mentoring programs that focus on turning kids away from gang-related activity was today passed by the Senate.
Girgenti held the Paterson Village Initiative as the type of program model that state grants could help succeed. The Paterson Village Initiative is a collaborative effort between city agencies, schools, faith-based communities and law enforcement to develop and maximize community resources that can prevent young people from falling into trouble, particularly with gangs. The Initiative centers around creating community-based antiviolence activities, community service projects and recreational and educational programs to enhance the quality of life for Paterson’s youth. Girgenti has been working with local officials – including Paterson Mayor Jeffery Jones – to jumpstart the program.
“The Paterson Village Initiative holds tremendous promise for turning around lives and rebuilding our sense of community, but it won’t happen on good will alone – it will take financial resources to achieve its goals,” said Girgenti (D-Passaic). “A community can bring all the essential players and their ideas to the table, but it will still take funding to put plans into action. And Paterson is not alone. There are many worthy community programs that could do so much with even a modest amount of help from the state.”
Under the bill (S-508), the grant program would be administered by the Department of Community Affairs. Preference would be given to those programs that focus on providing youths with alternatives to criminal street gangs. Mentoring programs awarded grants would be required to provide the department with annual reports on progress and an accounting for how its grant money was used.
The measure also is sponsored by Senator Nicholas Sacco (D-Hudson).
“These are grants that could help pay for themselves by allowing communities to better focus their resources and, hopefully, see a drop in costs as fewer youths find themselves caught up in the legal system,” said Girgenti. “This is one area where a dollar of prevention is worth many times more in cure.”
The bill passed 22-12 and now heads to the Assembly for further consideration.