Mass. police, Boys & Girls Club to split $100K in violence prevention grants

Gov. Healey announced a round of federal grant money to pay for various law enforcement and community programs through the state’s Safer Communities Initiative

By Dave Thompson

WORCESTER, Mass. — Intervention and prevention are significant tools in combating crime, especially among young people, according to law enforcement. Yet funding for such programs can often be a challenge.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey announced a round of federal grant money to pay for various law enforcement and community programs through the state’s Safer Communities Initiative.

At the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester, Healey heard from police, prosecutors and community leaders from across Massachusetts regarding their efforts to combat crime and address youth mental health.

Within the $1.5 million in funding, $100,000 went to the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office, which said it will use the money to fund programs at the Boys & Girls Club, as well as the Worcester Police Department.

Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early thanked Healey’s administration for securing the funding, telling the group “prevention and intervention and safety are second to none.”

“It’s our most effective crime-fighting tool, but it’s always underutilized and it’s always underfunded,” Early said.

For more than an hour and a half, representatives of agencies receiving the grants told similar stories — a worsening mental health crisis, positive community programs that have shown to help engage youth and keep them away from the criminal justice system, and the hope that bolstering current programs can help even more.

While crime trend maps may show declines in some crimes, Secretary of Public Safety Terrence Reidy said statistics don’t mean much to individuals dealing with the fallout of violence or substance use.

“Crime’s not down if you’re a victim of crime, if you’re a mother or father who’s had a child dealing with youth violence, if you’re a family friend dealing with youth violence, it’s not down. And one shooting is too much,” said Reidy, who noted he lived in Worcester as a child.

Worcester Police Chief Steven Sargent stressed the importance of collaboration between law enforcement and community partners.

“We cannot do it alone in this business. It’s about community, it’s about neighborhoods, it’s about relationships,” he said.

Boys & Girls Club of Worcester Director and CEO Liz Hamilton said the organization is working to bolster gender-specific as well as co-educational programs, keep their youth involved with mentors and address basic needs including food and mental health support.

Healey said her office is “chasing every federal dollar that’s out there” to help local agencies support prevention programs.

“I’m just struck by the good ... and what little it takes to change the life trajectory of a young person,” Healey said, adding she wants to make sure that programs aren’t only supported in their programming, but also in their day-to-day needs.

“You think about big numbers and big programs, but at the end of the day, you need a van. How do we get you a van,” she said.

Following the discussion, Healey visited with staff and youth at the Boys & Girls Club, talking individually and taking group photos.

She thanked the representatives in the discussion for “the focus you have on one child, one life, one opportunity,” calling that focus a goal “we must not lose sight of.”

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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