Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Operation SNUG introduced in NY to curb gun violence

(Albany, NY) – In an effort to cut down on illegal guns and gang violence that plagues communities across the State of New York, the State Senate has announced a new initiative, Operation SNUG, that will help local law enforcement and anti-violence community groups engage innovative tactics to steer at-risk New Yorkers away from the culture of gangs and illegal guns.

The Senate secured $4 million in the FY2009-10 State Budget for front-line anti-gun and gang violence prevention efforts that will benefit the hardest-hit communities across the state. As a result, the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, New York City and Westchester County will receive new infusions of much-needed funding that will allow for better cooperation between police and prosecutors to keep our children safe and streets secure.

The funding will be evenly distributed throughout eight communities through a competitive grants process that qualified community-based organizations with after-school programs. The guidelines are currently being developed and will be announced shortly.

According to Senate Majority Leader Malcom A. Smith:
Today marks a turning point in community safety. Gun violence affects us all- white or black, rich or poor, illegal guns terrorize neighborhoods and tear apart families. For too long, the deadly specter of illegal guns has gone unchecked. In cities across the state, our children are dying at the hands of gun violence, but through our commitment to SNUG, we can put a stop to that deadly trend now and return our streets to their rightful owners, the people of New York.
Senator Smith added:
30,000 people will likely die this year as a result of gun violence, and many of them will be young people. Operation SNUG is vital to a new age of community safety in the 21st Century . It will provide the support that our local anti-violence programs need and will help us save lives.
Governor David A. Paterson said:
The Senate's initiative recognizes the importance of fighting gun crime through a comprehensive and unified effort. As I have often stressed throughout the past several months, despite the economic downturn, we must not jeopardize public safet and we are committed to doing all that we can to ensure that our communities are safe places to live, work and raise our children. That is why I am pleased that we were able to provide additional funding for Operation IMPACT in this year's budget as well as support Operation SNUG. In addition, we have announced numerous initiatives to combat domestic violence and human trafficking and we are working hard to improve our juvenile justice system. New York is already the safest large State in America and my administration will do everything we can to improve upon our already successful programs.

Through outreach, prevention and intervention techniques, Operation SNUG will pay specific attention to ways in which we can keep young New Yorkers aged 14 to 25 out of gang life and away from illegal guns.

Every urban community in New York has fallen victim to the tale of children and guns. For instance, though Rochester has the third highest population in the state, in 2005 that city had the highest murder rate, with 8 of the 54 victims of gun violence aged 17 or younger. Just last week in Brooklyn, 18-year-old Chad Wilkins was murdered by gang violence. Wilkins had planned on visiting a college campus the day he was killed.

In downtown Albany last October, a Long Island SUNY Albany student was shot in the head, it appears at random. After a passing motorist found him, he was transported to a local hospital where he passed away.

Also last year, 10-year-old Kathina Thomas, a Guyanese immigrant, was killed when she was struck by a stray bullet in the back as she played in front of her First Street home. Investigators said then they suspected the .45-caliber bullet that killed her was fired during a fight between gangs in Albany‟s West Hill neighborhood.

Operation SNUG was born out of child gun violence in Senator Smith's community last summer when, within a three-day span in May of 2008, the Far Rockaway Peninsula became a violent battleground with five men shot and two teenagers killed.

Following these shootings, an initial “summit” of elected officials was held, led by Senators Smith, Eric Adams, Bill Perkins, Congressman Charles Rangel, Assemblyman Darryl Towns, and Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. Operation SNUG stands for:

S: Street intervention and stopping the violence
  • violence interrupters and outreach to high-risk youth
  • support for and coordination with police and law enforcement
  • clearly communicating community values against shootings and violence
  • engaging schools and educators as part of the solution
N: National, state and local funding support
  • funding for all alternatives
  • legislation to help implement solutions
  • public and private support for intervention and prevention as part of the response
U: Use of celebrities and centers
  • development of a comprehensive public relations effort, including celebrity PSAs and materials
  • reopening and revitalization of existing community centers, creation of new bunkers and community “safe haven” storefronts for youth
G: Gangs, guns, gainful employment
  • real-world gang awareness and prevention initiatives
  • new efforts to stop the spread of illegal guns, including new law enforcement efforts targeting “middlemen” and gun-running
  • connections to employment and economic alternatives
This initiative developed is modeled after the highly successful Cease Fire Gun Violence Prevention Model currently used in Chicago. That program directs very targeted outreach and prevention efforts to “high risk” communities, and works through existing and experienced community-based organizations. Through coordinated efforts between police, counselors, and community outreach specialists, this model has helped cut violence in Chicago, and has reduced the risk of “retaliation” murders, and helped students remain in schools and find jobs as they detach from gang life. Cease Fire will serve as a voluntary advisory to Operation SNUG-qualified programs.

“The proliferation of illegal guns in our streets has made crime deadlier than ever,” said Senator William T. Stachowski (D-C, Lake View). “That is why disarming criminals has been and must continue to be a top priority in our criminal justice system. We have a responsibility to the victims of crime and violence. And we must continue to support law enforcement in every possible way. Operation SNUG will greatly help in this effort.”

Said Senator Bill Perkins (D- Harlem):
Operation SNUG is a VIP, a violence intervention program. A vital program that will silence the violence, and save lives. I am proud to join my fellow colleagues in this movement to make our communities and our families safe.
“Operation SNUG is a response to tragic shooting deaths like we have suffered here in Albany--and it's designed to prevent other tragedies before they happen. I am proud that the Senate has taken the lead in developing and funding a crime and gun violence prevention model that will save lives in our communities,” said Senator Neil Breslin (D-Albany County).

“This initiative takes a smart approach to reducing gang violence and removing illegal guns and drugs from our streets,” said Senator Eric T. Schneiderman (D-Manhattan/Bronx). “Modeled on effective initiatives across the country, this evidence-based program equips both law enforcement officers and community groups with the tools they need to steer at-risk individuals away from violence. New Yorkers deserve nothing less than the most innovative efforts to rid our communities of crime.”

“Since the beginning of the year in Yonkers alone, there have over twenty incidents of gun violence,” stated Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D – Westchester County). “Gun and gang violence is on the rise and aggressively addressing this issue through prevention efforts is in everyone‟s best interest. I am pleased to support and advocate for this Senate initiative to help local law enforcement and anti-violence groups prevent more violence and keep our children and families safe.”

"Gang violence and illegal gun use has been a problem in Buffalo and across the state for too long. Operation SNUG will hopefully cut down on excessive gang violence that many communities face," stated Senator Antoine Thompson (D- parts of Erie and Niagara Counties).

“The purpose of SNUG is to curtail the amount of gun violence associated with gangs in many communities, particularly urban communities throughout our state. Community members that have a vested interest in ensuring the longevity and stability of their community must be in collaboration with law enforcement, affirmatively establish community standards and expectations, and begin a dialogue with gang members in an open forum, with the assistance of law enforcement,” said Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-WFP-Bronx/Westchester).

“For too long, the false colloquialism of "Stop Snitching" has been a mantra in many of our urban communities. It is critical for community members to feel safe enough to voice their concerns and have those concerns addressed without fear of retaliation. The dialogue between law enforcement and the community will also lead to an increased level of trust between community members and law enforcement through the efforts of Operation SNUG. As our young people say, "It is time to Bury Da Beef"”

“Gun violence is a cancer: left untreated, it will spread throughout our neighborhoods. It is essential to provide adequate support to areas of our state hardest hit by illegal firearms and gang violence. I am proud to support this initiative to help local law enforcement and anti-violence community groups utilize all resources at their disposal to dissuade those who might use violence from any tragic decisions and associations,” said Senator Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn).

“The $4 million in the state budget that will be utilized in this effort to deter gun violence will benefit regions most affected by the ravages of that plague, including my home area of New York City,” Adams said. “The cooperation that results from this initiative will help law enforcement and prosecutors keep our streets safe for everyone.”

“We must use the full power of our words, deeds, and funds to protect our citizens from the disastrous effects of gun violence. The bullet from a weapon pierces more than the flesh of the body. It resonates through our state‟s communities and neighborhoods as well,” said Adams. “The voices of our constituents call for legislators to help prevent gun violence. Today, we have again responded.”

If you'd like to see this type of proven program expanded to all areas in need of help to control gun and gang violence, contact your Congressperson and ask them to support H.R. 808 - the Department of Peace act.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Are Our Dreams Too Violent?

Do we need to hold spicy food manufacturers accountable?

Courtesy of The Onion

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's Finally Happened - "War on Violence"

I guess we knew it would happen someday. Some gung-ho, get-tough-on-crime policy maker trying to make a name for themselves would declare "War on Violence". Well, your patience has been rewarded! reports that a Republican candidate for Governor of NJ has issued that following statement:
We need a governor who understands that we need to get violent criminals with handguns off our streets. We have a lot more to do to fight violent crime. Anyone who travels with any frequency around this state knows we need to do much more.
OK, so Mr. Christie didn't actually use the term "War on Violence" - that was the journalist's (a.k.a, EDITOR) choice of words. But now it's out there, and I'm going to be watching for other occurrences. The irony of the phrase may catch the eye of discerning readers/listeners and help people see the need for a shift in understanding. We'll see!

Let us know if you find other references to "War on Violence".

Thursday, April 16, 2009

America Gets a D+ in School Violence Prevention

Community Matters - an organization whose mission is to "collaborate with schools and communities to engage, equip and empower young people to become change-agents and peacemakers" - has released a 10-year Report Card on School Violence Prevention covering the period since the Columbine tragedy. In summary, the report card indicates that the traditional "outside-in" approach that school and law enforcement officials have used to reduce violence in the wake of Columbine - $10 billion spent on security guards, metal detectors, zero-tolerance punishments and the like - have done little to improve the quality of a day in the life of the average student.

Community Matters Founder Rick Phillips asserts:

"What is needed is an 'inside-out' approach that focuses on strengthening relationships and actively empowering young people to improve the school climate and change social norms."

The Report Card evaluates performance in seven different areas:
  • Federal Funding - D
  • Legislation and Policies - D
  • On-Campus Security Measures - C-
  • Prevention Programs and Curriculum - C
  • Staff Involvement - C
  • Youth Involvement - D
  • School/Community Partnerships - D+

Federal Funding gets low marks because the amount of funding has been cut in recent years as memories of Columbine fade and other national priorities rise to the top. The report also points out that funds have been spent on the wrong things, and that accountability for results is lacking in the funding process.

Legislation of "No Child" and zero-tolerance policies have had the adverse impact of distracting from addressing the root causes of school violence. "Problem students" are shuttled away to special programs without looking for the source of the "problem". According to Phillips:

"Schools need to reach out to all students, particularly marginalized students. They must empower and equip these young people with the skills, support and opportunities to intervene effectively among their peers to reduce bullying and violence and to improve school climate."

Youth Involvement gets a low rating because students continue to be seen as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Schools need to do a better job of engaging young people as partners in decision-making and school improvement activities.

In conclusion, the report is intended to spark a renewed conversation about school violence-prevention efforts and, more importantly, call us to action. Addressing school violence and bullying is not the responsibility of schools alone. It is a public health crisis that can only improve if all sectors of the community (students, parents, teachers, administrators, government officials,
leaders of youth-serving organizations, law enforcement officials, and other community members) work together.

From the federal government perspective, the Department of Peace legislation (H.R. 808) would go a long way toward addressing the root causes of violence in schools and making sure programs that are proven to work at reducing violence get the funding they need to be effective in the most needed environments. Contact your Congressperson today and ask them to support H.R. 808.

Please also support the Youth PROMISE Act - H.R. 1064 and S. 435 - for youth violence reduction by sending Congress a letter on

Let's work to get our grades up!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Peacebuilding is Economical

(Guest Blog from Annette Karr, Department of Peace Activist from McPherson, Kansas)

During this current economic crisis, great effort has been directed in cutting costs both in the public and private sector. There are three areas that place a substantial drain on our nation’s budget. It occurs in the emergency room, the court room and the prison cell.

Through proactive measures dealing with the prevention of violence, we have been able to skim some of these costs, but our communities are in need of more focused intentional approaches to these challenges.

I recently represented Kansas at the national conference of The Peace Alliance, which is an organization focused on the passage of the bill H.R. 808. The bill deals with the development of a cabinet level Department of Peace.

Since 85% of the bill centers on domestic concerns, the majority of the speakers were individuals working in violence prevention programs across our country. One of the most impressive speakers was Azim Khamisa whose 20 year old son was gunned down by a 14 year old gang member in 1995. In the midst of unspeakable grief and despair, he came to the realization that there were victims on both ends of the gun. He and Plez Felix, the grandfather of the man who killed his son have developed a program where they speak to elementary and middle school students about the consequences of violence, and as the two men stand next to one another, their message extends beyond the prevention of violence into the ultimate demonstration of peace.

Mr. Khamisa, along with a host of others working in the nuts and bolts process of peace provided us with information about their programs. We also heard from a sampling of those working in the international field.

The conference concluded with a morning on Capitol Hill where the participants met with over 200 members of Congress or their staff to lobby for the bill H.R. 808.

Peace is not an ethereal concept. It is a practical matter desperately needed in our society. There is a wealth of individuals and programs across the nation working to lessen the need for the emergency rooms, court rooms and prison cells. Through the umbrella of a Department of Peace, those individuals and programs could receive some funding and communication to provide their services more efficiently, thus, making the Department of Peace cost effective.

Our society recognizes the need to teach our children to read, and are willing to invest in that endeavor. It provides our citizens with an essential tool that reaches into many aspects of our society including the individual’s economic needs. Our children need to be educated in the same intentional manner in how to live in a nonviolent world.

More information on H.R. 808 and the nationwide grassroots campaign to create a U.S. Department of Peace can be found at

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Too Much Violent Death, Not Enough Empathy

Such a run of violence - 13 people killed by a lone gunman in upstate NY, a father kills his 5 children then himself in WA, 3 policemen killed in a gun battle in Pittsburgh. It's tempting to politicize these tragedies, and we've already been bombarded with the requisite gun control arguments that come hand-in-hand with this kind of news. I could spend a few minutes writing about how these events would have been avoided if we had a cabinet-level Department of Peace in our federal government that could have taught the perpetrators how to resolve their conflicts through nonviolent means. But I'm not going to do that. It's just too sad.

Instead, I'm going to take hope in a recent article from the New York Times on how the skill of empathy is being taught in some schools in New York. These fortunate students are going to "get it" from an early age, and I'm thinking it's the sort of lesson that will stick with them for life. These kids are going to be much less likely to settle their grievances with gun fire. Check out the story...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Support the National Day of Silence bill - H.Con.Res. 92

Legislation has been introduced in the House for a National Day of Silence to raise awareness for GLBT issues in schools and help put an end to bullying related to sexual orientation - H.Con.Res. 92. Check out the legislation at OpenCongress, then go to to send your Representative a letter asking them to support the legislation. The Day of Silence this year is April 17, so we quickly need more House support to make it happen this year.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In Praise of Robert Gates’s Testicular Fortitude » Undiplomatic

I found this interesting quote today:

Some advice to my friends in the peace community: you should support Gates’s reforms with everything you have.  It may not be disarmament, it may not end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it will do a hell of a lot more to change the culture in this country than your utterly useless efforts to create a Department of Peace.  Gates is going to need every ally he can find.In Praise of Robert Gates’s Testicular Fortitude » Undiplomatic, Apr 2009

You may want to post a comment on Mr. Brown's blog and let him know if you agree with the "utterly useless efforts to create a Department of Peace" comment. Reader Ted N. already pointed out that we need a multi-pronged approach to dealing with the entrenched violence-industrial complex.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Maine Department of Peace Activists on Capitol Hill

(Guest blog from Lynn Ellis, Maine DOP Campaign.)

On Monday, March 23 eight of us from Maine (including 4 students from University of Maine Farmington) visited our members of Congress on Capital Hill, joining others from across the country as part of the 2009 national conference for a Department of Peace. Sponsored by The Peace Alliance, 500 of us (40 states, 10 countries and 150 youth from middle, high schools and colleges of the Student Peace Alliance) joined together for the weekend of March 20-23 to hear from renowned speakers such as Challenge Day founders Yvonne & Rich Dutra-St.John, Riane Eisler, Ocean Robbins, Rita Marie Johnson of Costa Rica and many others. We heard from panelists working “on the frontlines of violence treatment and prevention” and were inspired by the courage and tenacity of these dedicated citizens.

One of the goals of the conference was to educate on the benefits and cost savings of prevention in domestic and global violence. We were also there to lobby for H.R. 808, legislation to create a cabinet level Department of Peace. Founder of the bill, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, joined us at the finale of the conference along with Congressman John Conyers and Congresswomen Eddie Bernice Johnson and Lynn Woolsey. Since the re-introduction of H.R. 808 on February 3rd, 66 co-sponsors have signed on, including Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. The photo above shows us meeting with her in the D.C. office where we offered our deep appreciation for her support of H.R. 808. When we asked Rep. Pingree why she signed on, she replied,
“I joined on as a co-sponsor for the Department of Peace legislation to understand and counter the idea that we only have armed services—the Pentagon - and to find out where these two [can] meet."
We met with Senator Collins’ and Snowe’s staff and Congressman Michaud. We had a warm reception with the Senator’s offices and there was genuine interest in our campaign. Although no promises for sponsorship in the senate, dialogue is ongoing with Senator Snowe’s office. Congressman Michaud was less receptive, telling us the bill “wasn’t going anywhere” and asked us how it was different from current legislation to deal with violence issues. We explained the need for a specific department in our government as the crisis of violence continues to escalate. We stated that whatever is in place now is not working. We shared statistics including the fact that 16 youth between the ages of 10-24 are killed daily due to gang violence and that the cost of violence domestically exceeds $300 billion.

Research in the U.S. has shown that programs that teach conflict resolution and social skills can prevent youth violence. Such proven programs can be adapted to communities in the U.S. and abroad to reduce violence worldwide (Source: Institute of Medicine, Violence Prevention in low- and middle-income countries 2008).

We’ll be starting a lobbying campaign here in Maine’s District 2 asking Congressman Michaud to reconsider. Our goal is 500 calls between April 8-May 8. If you would like to be involved in that effort, see the contact information below.

The Department of Peace bill asks for $10 billion, with 85% being used to fund programs in the U.S. that work specifically on domestic violence prevention. Co-founder and Chair Emeritus of The Peace Alliance, Marianne Williamson says, “A Department of Peace would honor the entirety of a human – our emotional, psychological and spiritual issues as well as merely our material ones. And in doing so, it would address more deeply the entirety of our problems.” This campaign is more than just the passage of a bill – it is a movement toward creating a culture of peace.

For more information on the Maine Campaign for a Department of Peace, contact Lynn Ellis, State Coordinator at and visit our websites at and

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Social Networking Tools presentation from the Department of Peace conference

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:
(It comes out better if you download it.)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Would She Ever Know?

(This is a special Guest Post from Robert Weir, Department of Peace supporter from Kalamazoo, Michigan.)
It has been said, if you swallow a frog the first thing in the morning, it will be the worst thing that will happen to you all day. This story is dedicated to those of you who will be visiting your congressional representative on Capitol Hill for the first time. You might be nervous or anxious about doing so, but the good news is that I have already swallowed the frog, so you don’t have to.

This is what I experienced my first time lobbying in 2005. In fairness to my current Congressional Representative, the Congresswoman mentioned in this story represents a district where I used to live.

Would She Ever Know?

“We should be showing those airplanes flying into the twin towers every day on television! We must never let Americans forget what they did to us!”

The speaker was the top aide of a U.S. Congresswoman, and the aide and I were sitting in her D.C. office. It was my first time lobbying, and I had expected to be listened to.

But, with each interruption, the aide blew apart my practiced laser talk, my prepared plan, my intended statements.

As he attacked my reasons for wanting a Department of Peace, I saw that my words were not going to influence this man. So, silence became my ploy.

In the spirit of tai chi, I saw each verbal snipe coming at me, and I imagined a shoulder in my psyche turning, allowing his words to slide by and become diffused in the great mahogany space
behind me.

“Of course there will be violence. Look at my home. I’m Irish. I married a Brazilian. We fight every night.”

And, once again, I saw how much we learn by being still. Did he realize the intimacy he had just revealed?

The aide and I were together for 45 minutes of which he talked for probably 40, slicing, dicing, and scattering my partial sentences on the carpeted floor.

As I left, I wondered if I were just what he needed that day — a reason to vent at the office. Maybe his home would be quieter that night. Maybe his wife would wonder what had made his day different than others. Would she ever know?"

Robert M. Weir - Writer, Speaker, Communications Consultant.

Author of "Peace, Justice, Care of Earth: The Vision of John McConnell, Founder of Earth Day"