In an editorial, Pamela Johnson, the founder and executive director of the Anti-Violence Coalition of Hudson County, explains how they can make an impact if allocated federal funds.
It is difficult to explain how it feels when someone is killed on your street. Imagine the impact when many neighbors — mostly young people — are gunned down repeatedly.
That trauma endures and affects the entire community.
It changes people, especially young people. One truth we hold is that hurt people hurt people. The cycle of violence shows today’s shooting victim could become tomorrow’s shooter seeking revenge.
Jersey City has seen homicides increase from 17 in 2019 to 24 last year. Without the proper responses to these outbreaks of violence, our city will struggle to break this deadly cycle.
But there are solutions that are effectively working to curb violence. Our leaders must do all they can to invest in them.
The Anti-Violence Coalition of Hudson County (ACHC) is one such solution. We are addressing critical community needs those traditional caregivers — and the police — are not equipped to meet.
After violence occurs, we dispatch community case managers to provide support and offer resources such as one-on-one case management.
Our partners at the trauma recovery center, located in Greenville, offer free counseling, support services and much more. In the aftermath of violence, ACHC helps the community grieve and heal — and that, too, prevents retaliation.
But why is violence increasing if this work is so effective?
The reason is funding. Community-based violence intervention work in Jersey City is extremely under-resourced and cannot keep up with the need. We aspire to what is happening just across the bridge in Newark where political and police leadership and an engaged community fully support these innovative responses to violence.
Newark has created a community-based public safety ecosystem that does not rely solely on law enforcement. Grassroots leaders not only participate, but they also build innovative solutions and offer ideas on how to stop violence.
The entire city, including police, recognizes and addresses the trauma as a cause of violence.
The Brick City has a public safety roundtable that allows residents to communicate their concerns to law enforcement. The Newark Community Street Team offers many services, including sending credible messengers to defuse potential violence.
There is a unique program that brings community members and police into the same room to explore trauma and build trust; a diversion committee that moves young people away from the harmful legal system, and trauma recovery centers that provide healing for survivors.
And in 2020, behind community advocacy, the city established an Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery, with $12 million from its public safety budget, to coordinate the city’s collective efforts.
Since 2016, according to the Newark Department of Public Safety, homicides in Newark have decreased 50%.
By comparison, ACHC has a staff of seven people. Due to funding issues five of them work part time. It is a mere drop in the bucket of what is needed.
But with more resources we can turn the tide and support healing from the lingering impacts of trauma for everyone. The American Rescue Plan specifically calls for funding these services. The elected officials in Hudson County must follow through.
We urge our city, county, state, and federal elected officials to do everything possible, as fast as possible, to make the funds that have been allocated for these purposes available to the organizations on the front lines doing the work.
We also ask that Congressmen Albio Sires and Donald Payne immediately earmark additional federal funds to bolster these violence prevention programs.
Pamela Johnson is the founder and Executive Director of the Anti-Violence Coalition of Hudson County, which is a member of the New Jersey Violence Intervention and Prevention Coalition.