As gun violence rises, AOC, Schumer seek funding for Bronx anti-violence program


MORRIS PARK, the Bronx — At a time when the number of shootings has more than doubled from a year ago, and homicide numbers have spiked as well, a program that’s been proven to work against gun violence got big endorsements on Thursday from some bold-faced names from Washington. But the bigger question is whether or not Washington will untie its purse strings for the violence prevention program.

It’s called SUV, which stands for Stand Up to Violence. On Thursday, Sen. Charles Schumer joined the two local members of Congress from the area, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, to call for federal funding for the program.

“This program works,” said Sen. Schumer, “but it needs some money.”

It needs $400,000 more, to be exact: that’s how much funding local members of Congress are seeking.

At a time when the federal budget is more than $4.8 trillion, the amount sought for the Bronx-based violence prevention program seems miniscule. However, it still has to be approved by a majority of Congress, in both the Senate and the House.  

Schumer, the Senate majority leader, said that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t support funding for SUV, but that there may be enough GOP votes for it, nonetheless.  

Ocasio-Cortez said that the organization has clearly shown that the funding it does receive goes to good use. It currently receives money from the State of New York, and the city government.

“What this extra $400,000 will do,” Ocasio-Cortez said at a late morning news conference at Jacobi Medical Center, in front of a row of SUV workers, “is — you see the people behind me?” she said, pointing to them, “we’ll have a lot more of them.”

One of the leaders of SUV is Khayan Reed.  He said that one hallmark of his organization is that they’re always on the clock, and it’s most strongly realized when there’s a shooting. 

“Once that shot goes off, that’s our bell,” he said in an interview.  “We are then called to come and it doesn’t matter what time it is,” he continued.  “That bullet goes off and we appear.”

He attributed that kind of availability as being key to the organization’s effectiveness.

Even though shootings have been on the rise in the city over the past year, SUV has seen a 52% drop in the likelihood of their participants being injured in another act of violence after they become involved in the program.  

It was founded by Jacobi Medical Center Dr. Noé Romo in 2014.  While its results show that it’s been effective, the congressional endorsements are a call for SUV to do even more.  

Reed, the organization’s leader, said that the need is significant.

“Our community thinks that these things are normal,” he said, referring to the violence that many people in the community experience. “So the support and help from Mr. Schumer, that’s going to be amazing.”

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