Norfolk retains group to help develop violence intervention program


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Norfolk has a new group coming in to help create a violence intervention program.

During a City Council meeting Tuesday night, Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer announced the city had retained the Newark Community Street Team.

The group, founded by Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Ras J. Baraka, aims to reduce violence by using an “evidence-based, traumainformed approach.

This comes as communities in Hampton Roads wrestle with gun violence, especially among youth. Leaders in the faith community and activists say gun violence has been an issue for decades, but call the recent headlines “disheartening.”

The Newark Community Street Team trains and employs non-traditional community leaders to reach youth and young adults who are at-risk.

Filer said Newark’s track record speaks for itself.

NCST was founded in 2014. In 2015 Newark recorded 104 homicides according to Filer. So far in 2021 they have investigated 48.

“They will help work with our folks and organizations inside the city already to help them scale up and understand what a methodology and process would look like with a really effective violence intervention,” Filer said.

The NCST website quotes the mayor, Baraka, to explain the way the program works: “The Newark Community Street Team (NCST) employs non-traditional community leaders, including those who have been formerly incarcerated and those who have been engaged in the drug trade. They are trained as mentors and interventionists, and support at-risk youth and young adults 14-30 years old through a case management model. NCST Outreach Workers have transformed their own lives and are committed to supporting others’ transitions.”

At the meeting, NCST Director Aqeela Sherrills elaborated that Norfolk’s plan will be made custom.

“We find some of the communities in your city, where violence is spiking,” Sherrills said. “Work with community-based organizations on the ground to help build capacity of those organizations. To help provide some technical assistance and training.”

According to the NCST website, relying only on crime data doesn’t adequately reflect public safety conditions.

“Traditionally, law enforcement has been thought of as the sole solution to safety in communities. We’ve put a lot of pressure on our cops to be everything and all things. Coaches, teachers, councilors, therapists and it’s unfair,” Sherrill said.

Exactly how much NCST will be paid for its work in Norfolk is still being worked out.

Read more about NCST here.

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