The city received $1 million from governor Phil Murphy’s administration to run a program designed to provide mentoring and other services to five dozen young people on a negative life trajectory.
Funds from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA)’s Anti-Violence/Out-of-School Grant Program will support the Youth Interdiction and Education Initiative run by the city’s community policing unit.
Police director Jerry Speziale said young people “on a trajectory towards academic dismissal and a congruent path towards delinquency and formal stationhouse adjustment programs” will be identified by law enforcement and the education community.
60 young people between ages 12-17 will be identified for the program.
Speziale said the program will start in the next 6-8 weeks. He said it will run for a year providing after-school activities, job training, and field trips. Young people will also receive exhortation from motivational speakers to become productive citizens.
“The youth is our future. If we can get them on the cusp of being at-risk and change that direction it’s a real plus for the kids and a real plus for the community,” said Speziale.
Council president Ruby Cotton expressed gratitude to the state for providing the $1 million funding for the program.
“I’m happy that we were able to get that money,” said Cotton. “The whole point is to get kids on the right track.”
When asked if a year is sufficient enough time to get some of the young people on the “right track,” Cotton said, “You can do a lot of things in a year. You can put people on the right track with positive mindset. If you think positive then you do positive things.”
Speziale said the program will also build trust between police and the community.
“I think it’s a good thing. That’s what builds trust with the community and our youth,” said Speziale. He said knowing the young people on a first-name basis, knowing their challenges, shows them that “we love them and we care.”
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