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Lamont announces bill to support violence intervention programs

Ned Lamont
Jessica Hill
Associated Press
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont delivers the State of the State during opening session at the State Capitol, Feb. 5, 2020, in Hartford.

Aquil Crooks is a two-time gunshot wound survivor. Crooks’ mother, brother and sister have survived gunshot wounds, as well. His father has been incarcerated for 26 years.

Because of the hardship he has faced, Crooks said he understands how important it is for children to grow up feeling supported. Crooks said that's why he works at StreetSafe Bridgeport, one of the community outreach programs that hopes to receive new funding from the state for local violence intervention.

“Throughout my life, one thing I’ve noticed is that people need support and people need role models,” Crooks said. “Part of the work that I’m able to do now, it was able to give me that feeling of capturing life back. Not only was it able to do that, it was able to help me help other people find a light in their lives.”

Governor Ned Lamont joined Crooks during a visit to the Waterbury Police Activity League on Wednesday to urge support for a bill that would provide $3.6 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to support community violence intervention programs.

“I love the programs that you guys are talking about,” Lamont said. “At the end of the day, you provide a shoulder, you provide a lift, you provide respect, you provide hope. You provide a reason to get up every day and make life worth living.”

Lamont said the legislation would improve tracking of illegal gun sales and strengthen background check requirements to purchase firearms. Connecticut already has among the strictest gun control rules in the nation.

The bill also aims to fund youth outreach programs that would link resources from police, schools, and healthcare providers, like the Waterbury Police Activity League.

The Lamont administration said the league is an example of a strong violence intervention program by the way it introduces young people to law enforcement through sports and recreation.

Vanessa Dorantes, commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, said the state should better support local agencies that know their communities best to prevent violence.

“We have to have these local connections in order to weave this net of protection around kids,” she said.

The governor described the bill as “multi-faceted.” Senate Bill 16 is being considered by the state's Judiciary Committee.

“Some of it is about more community policing, getting more police on the street, doing everything we can to make sure that they are of, by and for the community, making sure the community knows they are there for them,” Lamont said. “Making sure we are doing everything we can to get those illegal guns off the street. But the real thing we’re doing every day, and why we’re here at the Police Athletic League, is doing everything we can to tell these kids we love them.”

Lamont’s proposals to expand Connecticut’s gun control laws received pushback from multiple gun rights advocates and state lawmakers earlier in the week. During a day-long public hearing, they argued more needs to be done to control crime in Connecticut rather than control guns.

Molly is a reporter covering Fairfield County. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.