Office of Children and Family Services

 

NEWS
For Immediate Release: 10/29/2018

Contact: Press Office

Email: press@ocfs.ny.gov

Phone: 518-402-3130

Governor Cuomo Announces $20 Million to Combat MS-13 Gang Violence on Long Island

 

  Commits $15 Million to Build New Community Hub in Brentwood
 
Launches $2.5 Million in Park Safety Initiative — Lighting, Surveillance, and Dedicated State Police Patrols
 
Provides $1 Million for New Law Enforcement Technologies
 
Invests $1 Million in Apprenticeship Programming for At-Risk Youth
 
Awards $500,000 for Mental Health and Social Service Initiatives
 
Over $45 Million Invested Under Governor Cuomo to Combat Gang Violence on Long Island 
 
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York is investing $20 million in new initiatives to combat MS-13 gang activity on Long Island. Specifically, New York will grant $15 million in capital funding to support the creation of a new community hub in Brentwood to provide a one-stop shop for social services, as well as recreational and educational opportunities for the community. Additionally, $2.5 million will be dedicated to improving park safety through the installation of new lighting and surveillance cameras, and $1 million will be used for new surveillance cameras and other law enforcement technology to assist Suffolk County Police Department. Finally, $1 million will be spent to support apprenticeship programs that teach at-risk youth both job and life skills, as well as $500,000 to strengthen mental health and social services programs across Long Island. By taking this holistic approach, the State is not only helping to curb gang violence in the short-term, but it is also addressing many of the underlying factors that lead to its spread.
 
These investments are the latest effort by Governor Cuomo to protect Long Island communities from the horrific violence perpetrated by gangs like MS-13. In addition to $18.5 million included in the FY 2018-2019 budget dedicated to eradicating MS-13 in Nassau and Suffolk counties, an additional $6.6 million in grants was awarded earlier this year to help combat gang activity and prevent young people from falling prey to gang recruiters. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, the total investment committed to combat gang activity on Long Island is more than $45 million. 
 
"MS-13 is a scourge that has taken too many young lives and affected too many innocents," Governor Cuomo said. "Public safety is job one, and every child, every parent, has to know that we are protecting their life, and their liberty. Any group, any thug that would kill children, that is a public safety risk like no other, and we're going to respond with the most sophisticated, coordinated public safety response that we have had."
 
"With the horrific shootings and lives lost across the country, we're committed to ensuring the safety of all New Yorkers," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "We're investing millions of dollars in programs and resources to help end the gang violence on Long Island that is tragically affecting our communities. We will not tolerate any form of hate or violence in our state, and we will hold the people who harm others accountable. We stand together in our fight to end the violence and protect the lives of our children and families."
 
Commit $15 Million to Build New State-of-the-Art Community Hub in Brentwood
Brentwood in Suffolk County has been one of the communities most heavily impacted by MS-13-related violence in recent years. As community leaders have come together to examine potential solutions, they have repeatedly identified the need for a new community hub to serve as a one-stop shop for community-based organizations to provide youth, including over 19,000 students in the Brentwood School District, with year-round recreational and educational opportunities.
 
To jump-start this project, New York will award $15 million in capital funding to Suffolk County for the construction of a new community hub in Brentwood. Additionally, the County will partner with the Town of Islip to spearhead a 90-day community-based planning process to identify the facility's exact location and additional partners, as well as determine what amenities and services will be made available to the community. Potential development sites to be assessed by the community include a 12-acre site at Brentwood State Park, as well as several municipally owned parcels.
 
Facility amenities may range from flexible office and counseling space for community-based organizations offering educational, vocational, and mental health services to performing arts spaces, soccer and other athletic facilities, as well as after-school and evening youth programs.
 
The planning effort will be co-chaired by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Town of Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter and New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. Once the site selection is complete, it is anticipated that design will be completed in six months and construction in 15 months.
 
Launch $2.5 Million Park Safety Initiative — Enhancing Lighting and Surveillance and Providing Dedicated State Police Patrols at Key State and Local Parks 
Since the scourge of gang violence began on Long Island, law enforcement has identified parks as the primary grounds used by gangs like MS-13 to recruit, congregate, and commit violent crimes. In fact, the bodies of over a dozen gang-related homicide victims have been found in or around parks and other wooded areas. As a first step, the Governor has already expanded State Police patrols at locations like Brentwood State Park, a 52-acre sport facility that is used by more than 743,000 people annually. Now those efforts are being taken a step further.
 
New York will invest $2.5 million in safety upgrades in high-traffic state and local parks, including Brentwood State Park, as well as Roberto Clemente Park and other local parks in the Brentwood area. Key upgrades will include new lighting and surveillance cameras. The funding will be allocated in two components: more than $500,000 for up to 225 new lights and up to 10 cameras in Brentwood State Park, and nearly $2 million supporting up to 500 lights and up to 100 cameras in county and local parks. In addition, the State Police will work with law enforcement partners, including the State Park Police and local police departments, to establish dedicated patrols in key parks that have seen MS-13 activity. 
 
This commitment continues Governor Cuomo's historic and ongoing $154.7 million investment in Long Island State parks since 2011 that includes improved access, facility upgrades and increased programming.
 
Provides $1 Million for New Law Enforcement Technologies 
As with other law enforcement agencies from across the nation, the Suffolk County Police Department utilizes a number of different technologies, like surveillance cameras, not only to combat gang violence, but also to support other anti-crime operations. When in use, these devices have played a key role in helping track members of violent gangs like MS-13, whose members are increasingly mobile and transient. Unfortunately, Suffolk County's existing network of 26 surveillance cameras is insufficient to cover the high crime areas contained within its vast geography of roughly 2,000 square miles. 
 
To strengthen this network, New York is investing $1 million in wireless surveillance cameras and other technology, doubling Suffolk County's current deployment. Additionally, the investment will bolster digital storage for the data. The critical information that these assets collect will be available to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies through the existing regional intelligence center.
 
Invest $1 Million in Apprenticeship Programming for At-Risk Youth
The recruitment pipeline for gangs like MS-13 relies heavily on their ability to prey on at-risk youth who have become disengaged from their communities and may be convinced that a life of crime is their only opportunity to succeed. To effectively disrupt, and eventually cut-off this pipeline completely, strategic investments must be made to connect vulnerable youth with the critical life skills and job training needed to build a career and re-engage with their communities.
 
To this end, New York will invest $1 million in apprenticeship programming, partnering with community-based organizations to provide intensive skills development, job training, and job placement services to up to 100 at-risk youth for up to two years. Recipients of this funding must be able to demonstrate a holistic philosophy to helping youth succeed by working to develop both soft skills like written and oral communication and punctuality, as well as hard skills that come through vocational training. This funding will create an opportunity for youth to receive on-site job training and apprenticeships, new educational and community service opportunities, and counseling services, while also helping develop leadership and civic engagement skills.
 
To begin the implementation of this programming, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services will issue a request for proposals in early November to identify organizations that have a successful history of working with youth who have been disconnected from school and the workforce, youth who are at risk of or are already gang-involved, or youth who are currently involved in the criminal justice system. These organizations must be able to demonstrate the capacity to provide these specialized services and/or work with other groups that can provide educational programming, workforce development training, and social support services, such as mentoring.
 
Awards $500,000 for Mental Health and Social Service Initiatives
Recognizing the trauma endured by families living in communities afflicted by gang violence, New York State will provide a total of $500,000 to better connect individuals to mental health and social services that can help them succeed. This funding will be allocated in three components: $50,000 for two schools to coordinate mental health and counseling services, $250,000 for two of the State's SNUG street outreach programs to embed social workers to identify and treat trauma, and $200,000 for victim assistance programs to add case managers to better deliver critical support.
 
Aside from the suffering experienced by youth impacted by gang violence, many of these young people come from troubled homes or have experienced a multitude of additional traumas. Before these individuals can truly overcome these unfortunate circumstances, they must have access to the necessary mental health supports and services. As such, both Brentwood High School and the Freshmen Center will receive $25,000 each to support community school mental health grants this school year. This funding will allow these community schools to increase their capacity to support mental health needs of the students. After violent incidents, students may have complex emotional needs from trauma that need to be supported so they can learn and thrive. These grants will support the coordination of mental health services and counseling, as well as teacher training on trauma and trauma-informed care. 
 
Further, the two SNUG street outreach programs administered by the Division of Criminal Justice Services in Long Island are a key resource in the fight to disrupt the cycle of gang and gun violence within their communities. These programs, supported by a total of nearly $700,000 in state funding, employ violence interrupters who have ties to the community and can respond when violent crimes occur. These specially-trained workers also identify and resolve conflicts before they lead to more violence and retaliation. To provide additional support, New York is investing an additional $250,000 to embed 4 new social workers within the current SNUG street outreach programs on Long Island, which are the Family and Children's Association in Hempstead and Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk County in Wyandanch. These trained professionals will also be available to serve as a critical support to program staff and key linkage to the formal health care systems.
 
Finally, the existing network of 9 victim assistance programs in Long Island will hire additional case managers who will streamline and improve services for crime victims and their families. The State is investing $200,000 to add up to 3 case managers to help victims obtain assistance to improve their lives, such as counseling and crisis intervention, and connect victims with legal assistance in civil matters, such as housing and immigration cases and Family Court cases involving custody, support and orders of protection. These managers will serve as navigators to victims and their families as they seek assistance and require referrals to other state and local resources.
 
Senator Phil Boyle said, "When students are engaged in productive afterschool activities that teach them both job and life skills they will become more engaged with their community and are less likely to join gangs like MS-13. By investing in prevention programs that reduce gang violence and recruitment, we are providing our most vulnerable New Yorkers with better options for the future. I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo to continue investing in these opportunities to ensure our young people can fulfill their potential."
 
Assembly Member Phil Ramos said, "The gang violence happening in communities on Long Island has gone on far too long. These investments will not only reestablish a level of safety for all residents, it will encourage young New Yorkers to engage in more after-school activities and take advantage of new job training opportunities, helping to curb gang recruitment in the long term. I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Cuomo and my legislative colleagues as we build a brighter future for all of our residents."
 
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, "Governor Cuomo's investment will lay the foundation to further empower our educators and leaders to intervene early and help at-risk youth avoid a path to joining a gang. With a record amount of state funding secured in this year's state budget to combat violent gangs like MS-13, the Governor understands that we need a comprehensive strategy that includes working with the local community. I really cannot thank him enough for being there for Suffolk County at a time when we need more action, not more rhetoric, to find solutions that benefit all of Long Island."
 
Suffolk County Legislator Monica Martinez said, "The activity of violent gangs like MS13 that is currently threatening our communities on Long Island is unacceptable, and today we are sending a clear message that we will not allow violent criminals to threaten the safety of our residents. The security of our streets, our neighborhoods and our communities is our top priority, and these significant investments will put us one step closer to ending this violence once and for all. I am grateful for Governor Cuomo's continuous support in this fight and for his commitment to the safety of New Yorkers."
 
Town of Islip Supervisor Angie M. Carpenter said, "We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for investing in our communities. These new resources will enhance residents' quality of life, and at the same time, ensure their safety and well-being."
 
Jeff Reynolds, President & CEO, Family and Children's Association, said, "Community support is crucial to combating the violence Long Island has experienced at the hands of this deadly gang. With a new community hub to keep our children off the streets, along with critically important security upgrades in the areas with the highest need, we are one step closer to eradicating MS-13 from our neighborhoods once and for all. I thank Governor Cuomo for funding these initiatives and for his ongoing support for Long Island as we work to create a safer, gang-free community."
 
Kevin Law, President & CEO, Long Island Association, said, "Efforts to reduce crime are a critical tool to promote economic development as businesses thrive in communities with low crime rates. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his constant efforts to eradicate MS-13 and for taking additional steps to strengthen the Brentwood and Central Islip region. The LIA looks forward to engaging in the planning process to establish a much-needed community hub and to identifying private sector partners."
 
Brentwood School District Superintendent Richard Loeschner said, "Governor Cuomo has committed unprecedented investments to help our community combat MS-13, and this new funding will equip community organizations and schools with the resources they need stop the recruitment pipeline. I look forward continuing to work with Governor Cuomo and our state and local partners to ensure that Long Island's children are safe."
 
Combatting Gang Violence on Long Island   
Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, the total investment committed to comprehensively combat gang activity on Long Island is over $45 million. Along with this new investment in 2018, $18.5 million was included in the FY 2018-2019 budget to eradicate MS-13 in Nassau and Suffolk counties and an additional $6.6 million in grants were awarded earlier this year to help combat gang activity and prevent young people from falling prey to gang recruiters.
 
In 2017, the Governor directed the State Police to deploy resources on Long Island to help combat MS-13, including 25 Troopers to conduct high visibility patrols in Brentwood and Central Islip, as well as undercover operations specifically targeting and saturating neighborhoods known to have high levels of gang activity. The State Police also provided six new investigators to the FBI-led Long Island Gang Task Force which comprises more than 30 members of federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and helps agencies combine intelligence and other resources to conduct comprehensive investigations into gang activity.   
 
The Governor also announced the deployment of a new Gang Violence Prevention Unit, consisting of 10 State Troopers. The unit will work to identify early warning signs of gang activity and coordinates closely with the Suffolk County Police Department on an "Educate the Educators" program to help teachers and faculty recognize the early warning signs of gang involvement and recruitment and provide training to students on the dangers of street gangs.