CAPITAL REGION — Three weeks after the governor declared gun violence a public health crisis, Schenectady, Troy and Albany are set to receive a combined $2 million to provide job training and workforce development programs for at-risk young people.
Under the initiative, which targets youth ages 18 to 24 in areas of cities affected by gun violence, the state Department of Labor will partner with local workforce development boards and their community partners to provide job training, credentialing and career placement services to ultimately connect at-risk youth to well-paid, permanent jobs.
Schenectady got $300,000 for 60 young people.
Albany’s earmark of $950,000 to serve 190 people, and Troy’s $750,000 is for 140 young people.
In all, 20 cities will receive $16 million to serve 3,200 people in the Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Long Island, the mid-Hudson region and Western New York.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced the funding Wednesday, shortly after his declaring a gun violence disaster emergency allowing the state to expedite money and resources to communities to bolster efforts to target gun violence immediately.
“We know that simply telling kids to put the gun down doesn’t work – we have to give them an alternative,” Cuomo said. “This new funding, for job training and stable, good-paying career placement opportunities for our most vulnerable young people across New York state, does just that. It’s an investment in our economy, in our recovery, and in our security. And it’s a beacon of hope for a generation that too often feels bereft of it.”
William Rivas, co-founder of Save our Streets, a Schenectady-based community empowerment group, attended Wednesday’s meeting in Albany about the funding announcement with representatives of the governor.
Rivas said he expressed his hope that the money isn’t just for a short-term fix.
“Is this something that’s for six months? Is it for a year? What happens when the number of shootings stop? If the numbers have dropped, are we just going to go back to business as usual?”
Rivas said gun violence in Schenectady, Albany, and Troy were often symptoms of larger problems.
“We’re dealing with youth who, for the last year and a half, have had their education ripped away from them during COVID,” Rivas said. “So, we’re looking at long-term mental health, substance abuse and psychological factors that all have to really be taken into consideration when we’re talking about this current gun violence situation.
“So I think the initiative is good,” he continued. “It’s great that we’re having access to these funds and things now. But it would have been great if we had this access earlier, because we could have done a lot of preventative work.”
According to statistics compiled by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, Schenectady’s violent crimes involving guns have increased.
The city had 115 violent crimes involving a firearm in 2020, up from 101 in 2019 and 90 in 2018. Its 2020 numbers include 18 robberies and 92 aggravated assaults.
Schenectady had five homicides from gun violence in 2020, after having one in 2019 and none in 2018.
There weren’t homicides involving guns the first six months of this year, compared to two murders from guns reported the first six months of 2020.
Schenectady reported 10 shooting victims this year, compared to 12 the first six months of 2020.
Police Chief Eric Clifford did not return a phone message through a department spokesman Wednesday.
Albany and Troy are also experiencing increases.
In Albany, there were 205 violent crimes involving a firearm in 2020, up from 116 in 2019.
After three gun-related homicides in 2019, Albany had 10 in 2020 and reported eight killings from gun violence so far this year, including six during a violence-plagued May. This was a slight increase from the five gun-related homicides the city reported the first six months of 2020.
Albany also reported 35 shooting victims so far this year, but that’s a marked decrease from the 65 shooting victims the first six months of 2020.
Albany police spokesman Officer Steve Smith didn’t return a message Wednesday.
Troy has had 110 firearm-related violent crimes in 2020, up from 72 and 66 in 2019 and 2018, respectively.
Troy also had seven firearm related murders in 2020, up from one in 2019 and none in 2018.
The city’s lone homicide from gun violence this year was in June, compared to two killings from gun violence the first six months of 2020.
The city has had eight shooting victims so far this year, compared to 20 the first six months of 2020.
Troy police didn’t return a message left Wednesday.