LYNN — The Lynn Police Department has been awarded a $222,133 state grant for initiatives aimed at preventing gang violence in the city.
The funding was awarded by the Gov. Charlie Baker administration through the Shannon Community Safety Initiative (Shannon CSI) Grant Program, which is a multi-pronged approach to addressing a community’s gang and youth violence problem.
The majority of the funding will go to the city’s free Teen Drop-in Center at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, a popular safe haven for kids to go to on Saturday nights, according to Lynn Police Lt. Peter Holey, head of the department’s youth services unit.
The grant will also fund case management for some at-risk youth with Catholic Charities and Family & Children’s Services of Lynn, along with the salary of a Lynn Police Gang Unit detective.
Some of the funds go toward the outreach component of the Shannon Grant, or for the work of Antonio Gutierrez, who works with at-risk youth through Lynn Youth Street Outreach Advocacy and Stop the Violence Lynn, Holey said.
“When the teen center first opened, gang violence was at an epidemic level in the city of Lynn,” Holey said. “I can’t emphasize enough that Lynn is a different city than it was 12 years ago in regards to gang violence. We are definitely a Shannon Grant success story.”
Holey said gang violence and juvenile delinquency is way down. Juvenile arrests were down 43 percent last year. He said there were 48 juvenile arrests last year, with only four at schools, which he called amazing for a city of Lynn’s size with its demographics.
The teen drop-in center started a dozen years ago with the inception of the Shannon Grant. Holey, a sergeant in the gang unit at the time, said the idea came about through police talking with a youth group comprised of kids in gangs who consistently mentioned they didn’t have a place to go where they could feel safe.
There are four police officers and two civilian staff who work at the center, with police ensuring the safety of every kid who comes through the door. Holey called it the best community policing the department does.
Despite the immense progress that’s been made in reducing gang violence, Holey said the police department definitely still needs a gang unit.
There is still occasional gang graffiti in the city and there are concerns about MS-13 and their rivals, the 18th Street Gang, as far as gentrification in Boston and Chelsea driving those families out and bringing that gang activity into Lynn, Holey said.
There’s also concern that last week’s homicide, where a former gang member was shot and killed on Elm Street, may spark further violence. Police have contacted their outreach partners to have them reach out to high-risk men to quell some of that violence, Holey said.
“Fortunately, we have not had an incident (in response to that shooting), but we are concerned,” Holey said.
Police believe the victim and shooter may have known each other and that it doesn’t appear to be a random shooting.
“I’m not saying it was a planned incident,” Holey said. “It may have been something that evolved. (It was) not necessarily a targeted shooting.”
The teen center is sponsored by Mayor Thomas M. McGee, the Lynn Police Department, the city’s Community Development Department and the Parks and Recreation Department.
North Shore Community College, Lynn’s research partner, received $28,573 in Shannon Grant funding.