New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services now partnering with Buffalo, Schenectady & Yonkers police departments to develop and launch project
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced police departments in Buffalo, Schenectady and Yonkers are sharing $1.5 million in federal funding over five years to implement pilot programs designed to provide alternatives to arrest for justice-involved youth, and build trust between youth and police in the three cities. New York was one of only seven states to successfully apply for the funding, which will allow each department to address needs of youth who are at-risk of becoming involved with the justice system.
"New York state is committed to ensuring that our justice system is fair to support our youth and improve public safety for all New Yorkers," Hochul said. "I'm proud to announce this $1.5 million in federal funding, which will support our state's efforts to help law enforcement and community leaders partner together to ensure that our youth have the services and opportunities they need to build healthy futures and safe communities."
Hochul’s team said, “Each police department will receive $514,000 over the next five years and work with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services Office of Youth Justice to tailor pre-arrest diversion and trust-building programming designed to reflect the voice and story of young people who encounter law enforcement most frequently in those communities: runaway and homeless youth, and youth of color. This pilot program is part of Gov. Hochul's comprehensive strategy, using federal and state funding, to reduce and prevent gun and violent crime; empower communities; and improve the effectiveness and fairness of the state's criminal and youth justice systems.”
Division of Criminal Justice Services Commissioner Rossana Rosado said, "This programming builds upon Gov. Hochul's commitment to meeting needs of all youth, especially those who are most vulnerable, across New York State. I commend police officials in Buffalo, Schenectady and Yonkers for their willingness to partner with us and work with stakeholders in their communities to develop and support programs that can have a profound, meaningful and positive effect in the lives of young people."
Hochul secured $227 million in state funding in the current fiscal year for initiatives that support law enforcement and community-based programs, including $28 million for Project Rise (Respond, Invest, Sustain and Empower); $20.9 million for SNUG and community-based gun violence initiatives; and $18.2 million for law enforcement agencies that participate in the state's Gun Involved Violence Elimination initiative, among others.
A press release noted, “In applying for the federal grant, staff from the DCJS Office of Youth Justice used data related to arrests, poverty and runaway youth to identify potential pilot sites. Buffalo, Schenectady and Yonkers will use evidence-based research to help improve services and address challenges through collaborative partnerships, reduce risk factors, enhance protective factors, and increase the opportunity for a youth to be diverted from entering the youth justice system.”
Congressman Brian Higgins said, "I applaud Gov. Hochul's initiative to seek out this federal funding. This project provides an opportunity to dig deeper into the root causes of the behavior and help put young people on a better path forward."
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said, "Providing diversion and trust-building programming alternatives to arrests in appropriate cases is a way our department can build relationships with the younger members of the public in a positive way. Keeping youth engaged and teaching them life skills is a net positive for the entire community and provides a better future for the individuals."
Hochul’s team said, “While New York state has a formal diversion process, it occurs after an arrest. Those cases are sent to probation departments, which determine whether they proceed to family court or can be diverted (also known as adjusted). The programs developed through the grant will allow for the state to pilot pre-arrest diversion or alternative to arrest opportunities, which could potentially increase equity in the justice system and access to alternatives to incarceration while bolstering trust between law enforcement and the community.
“Through the grant, Office of Youth Justice staff will help identify services currently available to homeless and runaway youth in Erie, Schenectady and Westchester counties; explore policy and eligibility requirements to identify barriers for at-risk or justice-involved youth to access programming; and identify any service gaps and needs for those youth. Data also will be used to support implementation of evidence-informed or evidence-based programming to fill those gaps.
“Office of Youth Justice staff also will assist with implementing trust building in each community, using a newly designed trust-building facilitator's guide. Modeled after reconciliation and trust building work at the National Network for Safe Communities, the guide helps ‘communities and law enforcement to come to a position of respect and trust by recognizing real historical harms and experiences, building empathy, and finding common ground and a mutually supported way forward.’
“The guide provides a framework and technical assistance to lead facilitators for conducting monthly trust building meetings with stakeholders. Law enforcement leaders and other public officials acknowledge harm done and listen directly to the affected community to create a consensus record of past and present harms; repair the relationship by taking steps to reduce the effects of past harms and prevent them from repeating. The meetings are used to outline lessons learned, develop concrete changes for public safety best practices based on listening and collaboration.”
The federal Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention awarded the funding to New York and five other states. Priority was given to projects in areas with persistently high poverty. Federal performance measures will be used to gauge participation, training, program additions and expansion, and policies created as a result of the pilot program.
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services is a multifunction criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including law enforcement training; collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the state's DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; funding and oversight of probation and community correction programs; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state's Sex Offender Registry. Follow the agency on Twitter and Facebook.