Since 2006, the Shannon Community Safety Initiative has been providing communities in Massachusetts with funding to combat youth violence, gangs and substance abuse, typically through a regional and multi-disciplinary approach. As Shannon supporters from around the state gathered at the State House last week to lobby for funding for its continuance, helping to lead the charge was City Manager Jay Ash.
“If you care about community and care about the young people in your community, Shannon is critical to you,” Ash boasted to a standing room only crowd in a State House hearing room. “Our legislators know that and have been supporters of Shannon in the past. However, times are tough and dollars are tight, so we all need to walk these halls and remind our legislators that Shannon is making a difference in our communities and it needs to be refunded.”
Ash is an original advocate of Shannon, named after the late Senator Charles E. Shannon, Jr., who was an ardent supporter of anti-crime measures in the Legislature. Since the first success he helped to champion, Ash has led a local coalition that includes Revere, Everett, Medford, Malden, Somerville and Winthrop to focus on regional efforts supported by Shannon funding.
“We’ve broken down communication barriers within our boundaries and among our communities,” said Ash, following the event. “And, along the way, our collaborations are making a difference in traditional policing work, as well as community-based solutions to youth violence and drug abuse.”
Through Shannon, police officers and community advocates have been sharing information, improving individual responses and promoting collaborative efforts to prevent crime and be effective in intervening when prevention is too late.
“Shannon has been the impetus for a solidification of our relationships with our community partners and an enhancement of our joint responses to those issues that confront us,” commented Chief Brian Kyes.
Chelsea’s police chief went on to say that law enforcement officers in Shannon communities have been regularly working together on efforts, from identifying common problems and the causes of those problems to actually going on joint patrols in the hot spots of Shannon communities.
“Crime knows no boundaries,” commented Sen. Sal DiDomenico, who has been a past supporter of Shannon funding. “It’s therefore critical that we take a regional approach to dealing with it. I know that Chelsea’s efforts to work with its partners are making a difference on both crime and in providing enhancements for our young people.”
Shannon funding in Chelsea provides for additional police manpower on the streets, slots in prevention activities at the Boys & Girls Club and intervention services by Roca.
“All valuable initiatives, and that’s why so many of us are so supportive of Shannon,” said Rep. Gene O’Flaherty.
“Our police say the effort is working, and when we talk to community providers they all sing Shannon’s praises,” added Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein. “Making sure that Shannon survives another tough budget year has to be our priority.”
Ash said he is optimistic that Shannon will be funded for the upcoming year, which begins July 1st. However, he could not speculate at what amount.
“The Legislature has so many competing interests and continuing budget turmoil,” said Ash. “Shannon provided twice as much just four years ago as it did this year, so the program is not reaching as far as we would like. That’s why we go up to the State House; to continue to advocate for the program because communities like Chelsea and, especially, young people who live in places like Chelsea need the funding to support healthy alternatives to what otherwise could be.”
State Secretary of Public Safety Andrea Cabral and City Manager Jay Ash were among the leaders who addressed a standing room only rally at the State House in support of the Shannon Community Safety Imitative. Chelsea is among 30 communities receiving a total of $6.5 million this year for prevention, intervention and enforcement activities to promote safer streets and better outcomes for youth through the Shannon Grant.