Mayor Jennings, without giving details, says he's working out a way to keep Albany's SNUG running

Section: Capital Region,  Page: B1

Date: Saturday, October 8, 2011

ALBANY -- Mayor Jerry Jennings suggested Friday that he has found a way to save a well-regarded anti-violence program that is slated to close next week after the state cut its funding.

Asked about the fate of the program -- known as SNUG, for "guns" spelled backward -- on his weekly call-in radio show on Talk 1300, Jennings said: "I'm going to be able to work something out to keep them going."

Jennings did not elaborate, and his office did not return a call for comment later in the day.

But the mayor's remarks suggest the well-regarded program run by the nonprofit Trinity Alliance with the help of the University at Albany's School of Social Welfare may yet survive.

Those familiar with the fight to save SNUG said they had been asked by City Hall to keep their public protests about the impending closure to a minimum while Jennings, the city's most enduring lobbyist, worked behind the scenes to find some money.

Open for just a year, SNUG is based in the community -- not law enforcement -- and treats gun violence as a public health problem akin to smoking.

Among the program's key elements is the use of violence interrupters who hit the streets after shootings in hopes of reducing the likelihood of retaliation while also reaching out to those at risk of being drawn into bloodshed before it happens.

The Albany program is one of 10 pilot sites statewide, funded with some $4 million initially earmarked by the Legislature in 2008. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's state budget this year appropriated no new money for the program, and Albany's $500,000 share of the original state earmark runs out next week.

One of the ways in which SNUG is remarkable is the extent to which it has combined buy-in from inner-city neighborhoods with the full-throated support of the city's police department, counting Chief Steven Krokoff being one of its sincere testimonials.

Community members have rallied to save the program with little public sign of progress until Friday morning. An online petition asking Cuomo and state Legislative leaders to save the program -- -- had accumulated 168 signatures as of Friday afternoon. Earlier this month the Common Council dispatched a letter to Cuomo and other state officials asking the same thing.

Harris Oberlander, CEO of the Trinity Alliance, said that if a deal had been struck to save all or parts of SNUG, he was not yet aware of it.

"It's being made at levels of government that don't involve Trinity," Oberlander said. "If the mayor's saying what he's saying, he must be in a position to know. ... I know that the city was interested in seeing this survive."

Still, Oberlander said the community's response to the program's impending closure combined with a drop in shootings during the first part of this year are testaments to SNUG's effectiveness in stopping violence and changing attitudes.

"There's been an unbelievable groundswell of community grassroots reaction to this," he said. "We believe that it's made a difference."

One of SNUG's loudest advocates, Councilman Dominick Calsolaro, said he was encouraged by Jennings' statement.

"I'm just hopeful that the mayor works this out and we can find the funding because we need SNUG," Calsolaro said. "We would hate to lose a program that everybody has bought into."

Reach Jordan Carleo-Evangelist at 454-5445, or on Twitter @JCEvangelist_TU

Rally for SNUG

Albany residents will gather to call on state leaders to restore funding to Albany SNUG.

When: 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Where: 138 Eagle St., near the governor's mansion.