Newark, NJ –April 26, 2023 – Mayor Ras J. Baraka; Director of the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery Lakeesha Eure; Assemblywoman Shanique Speight; Brick City Peace Collective (BCPC) Executive Director Kyleesha Wingfield-Hill; and Newark resident Sonia Rogers, who lost three sons to gun violence, held a press conference today to launch the City of Newark’s Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery’s (OVPTR) Strategic Plan in the City Hall Press Room.
The strategic plan was unveiled as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights week, which is dedicated to confronting and removing barriers to justice for crime victims. The press conference highlighted Newark’s OVPTR as a national model for pioneering deliberative solutions and policies to support the victims of crime and violence, to assist their recovery, and prevent such incidents from occurring.
Its holistic and comprehensive approach to crime and violence treats it as a public health issue, viewing people as individuals and not as products of their environment.
The groundbreaking plan has four strategic goals, which are as follows:
· Supporting communities to have an active role in creating public safety.
· Mobilizing community and law enforcement to focus on hot spots.
· Shifting the culture to think about trust, healing, and resilience.
· Investing in the capacity of people and resources to prevent violence.
“Newark’s decrease in overall crime is directly related to the innovative efforts of our Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery, and the entire collaborative ecosystem we have created because it views crime and violence as a public health issue and addresses it holistically,” said Mayor Baraka. “Because the roots of crime are complex, the solution demands a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to reduce the societal imbalances and stressors that give rise to aggression and violence.
“We know that arrests and incarcerations do not make our streets safer over time. This initiative seeks to transform the lives of Newark’s residents through common-sense, compassionate measures that prevent crime, reduce violence and foster healing – one life, one family, one street at a time,” he added. “I commend everyone who worked on this plan and has committed themselves or their organization to making our vision a reality.”
The plan requires treatment for the whole person: biological and personal history factors, such as age, history of drug abuse, depression, personal beliefs, and child maltreatment. It also includes such subjects as relationships with family and friends; community settings and neighborhood dynamics; and societal and cultural norms that drive attitudes.
The approach focuses on collaborations between municipal, non-profit, and private organizations, stressing a variety of measures to reduce violence and crime. They include such programs as workforce development, social services, literacy programs, vacant lot clean-ups, and demolishing vacant buildings that stand as eyesores and dangers. The city has been making data-driven deployments of resources into “hot spots” to address violence and crime in this comprehensive manner.
Today’s press conference comes on the heels of the city’s deadline for request for proposals for community-based violence intervention and preventions programs. $17 million is earmarked for organizations chosen for the merit of their submission and its projected impact on Newark’s neighborhoods. This investment back into the community will increase the capacity of resources and people dedicated to residents’ safety, healing, harmony, and wholeness.
“OVPTR is the community-based arm of public safety. You can’t have public safety without the public,” said OVPTR Director Eure. “When I say, ‘community-based,’ I am talking about a groundswell movement that has been created and cemented through the mayor’s direction into an initiative that approaches crime, violence, and trauma as it would be treated in a healthy family – with holistic compassion and support. We are addressing violence as a public health issue and promoting healing for everyone impacted directly or indirectly.”
“The strategic plan we announced today is the culmination of years of intensive research into the facts and reality of crime and violence specific to Newark. It incorporates comprehensive input from grass roots neighborhood and community service organizations, residents as well as professionals in physical and mental health fields, social work, abandoned property revitalization, public safety and law enforcement, job creation and education.”
The plan includes collaborations with pre-existing programs like My Brother’s Keeper Newark, the Newark Community Street Team, the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition, and the Newark Opportunity Youth Network, The HUBB, Newark Public Safety Collaborative, Equal Justice USA, and many more partners who hold substantial knowledge about communities and have been paving the way on preventive work for many years.
The public health approach also invites municipal departments and community members to see violent behavior as an infectious disease and not as a law enforcement issue.
OVPTR was created by Mayor Baraka in June 2020. The mayor made the announcement on the steps of Newark’s Police Division’s 1st Precinct, which was the 4th Precinct in 1967, where the historic rebellion began. This precinct has been transformed from a place of hurt and harm to a place of help and healing.
“The Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery has been doing amazing work, resulting in measurable improvements to public safety throughout the city. The Office’s initiatives align with what is now being done at the state level to establish statewide violence intervention and prevention measures and to support victims,” said Assemblywoman Speight. “The City of Newark is truly setting the precedent for what this should look like in New Jersey and nationwide. I look forward to continued progress and the subsequent impact it will have on our city.”
“All of the organizations that make up Newark’s Public Safety ecosystem are needed to move Newark Forward,” said Ms. Wingfield-Hill. “Through leveraging our collective power, BCPC is able to drive systems and change strategies that support those most impacted while creating a sustainable pathway toward peace and wellness for the residents of our great city.”
The Office’s mission is multi-faceted and provides services that will address trauma-related issues and promote prevention strategies to enhance the quality of life for all Newark residents. The office works hand in hand with public safety and community partners to address the underlying causes of violence and build trust with the community.
Bloomberg Associates, the pro bono consulting arm of Bloomberg Philanthropies, provided technical assistance for the creation of the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery and its Strategic Plan.
“Newark is a national leader in adopting a comprehensive approach that addresses violence as a public health issue and works hand-in-hand with the community to prevent violence whenever possible, intervene rapidly when it occurs and help communities recover from the trauma they have long experienced,” said Linda Gibbs, a Principal at Bloomberg Associates. “Bloomberg Associates is proud to have given our support in the creation of OVPTR and the generation of this plan.”
Ms. Gibbs has worked in city government for 30 years and her last position was Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services in NYC.
“Violence must be stopped. I have seen how violence shows up at our front door, enters our homes, and removes from us what we value the most,” said Ms. Rogers, discussing her three sons who were each shot and killed in Newark between 2011 and 2015. “It may seem sudden, but in fact it gives its signs every day, everywhere. It’s in the schools, on the streets while we are at work, on cellphones and at home. I’ve lost my sons to violence. After being listened to and nurtured by Lakeesha and other collaborators of OVPTR, I’ve made it my mission to tell my story and raise awareness so that others don’t have to go through the same. We must continue working together to protect our children.”
The OVPTR plan is attached and can be viewed on the City website by clicking here.
For photos, visit here.
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