Following a recent uptick in gun violence in Ulster County, County Executive Pat Ryan announced on March 23 that New York State has allocated $240,320 in funding for the county to join in the Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) initiative.
In addition to the funding, the county will also be launching a new Lights on Kingston youth program led by the Kingston School District, the City of Kingston, Harambee and the Ulster County Youth Bureau. Both of these programs work to reduce gun violence in communities with high rates of gun-related violence.
The initiative includes 17 counties outside of New York City that have reported high rates of gun violence. It will also provide state funding to 20 police departments, district attorneys’ offices, probation departments and sheriffs’ offices in various counties including Ulster. The funding that the agencies receive will go towards equipment, overtime, training, technical support and personnel, including crime analysts and prosecutors.
The guidelines for the initiative explain that participants will design a gun violence reduction plan using specific evidence-based strategies given to them: hot-spots policing, focused deterrence, street outreach and crime prevention through environmental design. Participants will also need to integrate procedural justice into their reduction plan. By doing so, the goal is to create trust and respect between law enforcement and individuals and their communities.
“We’ve worked tirelessly to combat gun violence across this state and prevent the senseless tragedies it causes,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press release. “The GIVE initiative gives law enforcement agencies the resources necessary for fighting gun violence in our streets, and helps create a safer and stronger New York for all.”
The City of Kingston has had six fatal shootings since the fall of 2019.
On March 21 Erick Crawford was killed in midtown Kingston making it the fifth incident of gunfire reported in the area since the previous month.
“Enough is enough, it is time for us to take a stand against gun violence and provide our community with action-oriented solutions to end this epidemic of violence,” Ryan said. “As we continue to navigate through the pandemic, it is even more important for us to partner with the community to find safe after-school programming for our youth and put real dollars behind taking guns off of our streets. Ulster County is prepared to do just that, we can not allow the cycle of violence to continue unchecked.”
Lights on Kingston held at Kingston High School, will begin on June 1 and go through the summer. The program will be held on Fridays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Activities will include but are not limited to, basketball, dance activities and video games. Additionally, local restaurants will be providing food to participating students.
“It’s an opportunity where we as a community, we can put our arms around our kids together, we can keep them safe. We can give them programs, we can let them explore, challenge their minds,” said Ulster County Human Rights Commissioner Tyrone Wilson. “Their minds are constantly running, and they need to let that out. They need to be in a space where they can dream again.”
The programs were announced in a press conference where elected officials, religious leaders and community leaders all spoke on the matter.
Speakers included Sheriff Juan Figueroa, District Attorney Dave Clegg, Kingston Mayor Steve Noble, Kingston City Schools Superintendent Paul Padalino, Pastor Doris Schuyler of the Riverview Baptist Church and Human Rights Commissioner Tyrone Wilson.
Additionally, Noble, and the City of Kingston Police Department announced that they will be offering a new gun buy-out program.
In this new program named, “Groceries for Guns,” you can turn in any gun in any condition for a Hannaford gift card in return. The gift card amounts depend on the gun and its condition: $25 for any non-working gun, pellet gun, air rifle, replica, etc, $200 for any rifle or shotgun in working condition (any caliber), $300 for any working handgun and $400 for any working “assault-type” rifle.
The program began on March 26 and has no current end date. The program was created and made possible by the Boys & Girls Club, Center for Creative Education, Harambee, and the Kingston Police Commission.
However, with new COVID-19 restrictions, there is no official drop-off location. Kingston residents must contact the police department and schedule a pick-up location and time. To schedule an appointment call either of the following numbers. The Kingston Police Department anonymous tip line 845-331-4499. Or call the Police Chief Egidio Tinti at 845-943-5766.