An innovative anti-gun violence program in New York's capital city may come to an end despite its successes -- another victim of the recession and tightening state budgets.
For the past year a program called SNUG -- "guns" spelled backwards -- has been up and running in Albany. It takes the approach that gun violence is a public health crisis, not necessarily a law enforcement matter.
"The health and medical communities have begun to buy into this notion that gun violence is a community-based disease," said Eric Hardiman, an associate professor at the University of Albany School of Social Welfare, which is a partner in the SNUG project. "You can adopt the same type of intervention strategies from a public health perspective as you would for smoking-related diseases or automobile-related injuries. If it changes the way we think about gun violence, then it also changes the way you intervene... This is a new day and a new way to look at crime and neighborhoods and poverty."
According to the Albany Times-Union, the program engages young people who are at risk of being drawn into gun violence. It also sends "violence interrupters" following shootings, trying to get friends of relatives of shooting victims not to retaliate. It also holds protests against gun violence.
The program seems to be working -- through the first eight months of the year, there have been 56 shooting incidents in Albany. That's down 21% from last year. A total of 23 people were actually shot, down 29%.
The program is run by a non-profit agency called Trinity Alliance, with the full cooperation of the police department. But Trinity is losing its state funding next month, and unless it can come up with the money, SNUG will have to shut down.
"We're really talking about widespread community change, and change that's not easy to achieve," Trinity CEO Harris Oberlander said. "It's not just as simple as someone firing a gun and someone being shot."