NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is going toe-to-toe with the Trinitarios and other Bronx gangs to keep them from recruiting new members.
“The gangs win when a void is created. The gangs win when the young person feels no support, no option, no opportunity,” Cuomo said Thursday. “We have to fill the void before the gang gets there.”
Three weeks after 15-year-old Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz was stabbed to death by suspected gang members in what police are calling a case of mistaken identity, the governor announced a $19 million package of anti-gang programs designed to give kids so much to do they won’t be tempted to join a gang.
“Terrible, horrendous act,” the governor said. “What should we do? Do something, do something positive, not just words, not just ‘you’re in my thoughts and prayers’ – do something.”
The new #JusticeForJunior program:
* Targets boys and girls 6-19
* Offers free programs, including sports, arts, computer labs and game rooms
* Establishes summer camp programs
* Provides funds to renovate Roberto Clemente State Park
* Expands state police anti-gang operations
* Eupports organizations that stops gangs from recruiting in schools
Cuomo’s initiatives got a big boost from Guzman-Feliz’s father, who had just come from the cemetery where he visited his son’s grave.
“It’s good news for me and for other people,” he told CBS2’s Political Reporter Marcia Kramer.
Looking at the community memorial to Junior, the elder Guzman said he’s still having a hard time.
“I think about my son every day. I cry every day,” he said.
Will the new initiatives work?
“If you give kids something to do to buy their time, it keeps them out the streets. The more they have on their brain, the less violence they have on their mind,” one resident said.
“We can’t allow the gangs to win, but we have to involve parents now. Parents need to talk with their children,” said another.
“They need role models, they need people who actually grew up in this neighborhood that will guide them to let them know this is not the right way to go.” another added.
Many of the programs are expected to begin this summer and fall, including a youth baseball and softball academy run in partnership with Major League Baseball. It’s expected to serve 1,500 kids.