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Intergenerational trauma leads to violence in Norfolk, group finds

Managers of the New Jersey-based team offered their assessment and key recommendations to address violence in Norfolk.

NORFOLK, Va. — One group assisting Norfolk seeks to tackle crime in a non-traditional way, while the city grapples with surging gun violence. 

Managers of the Newark Community Street Team offered their assessment and key recommendations to council members on Tuesday. 

The mentorship and outreach program based out of New Jersey aims to reduce crime with a public health approach. The strategies are meant to complement policing, as well as existing resources in the city.

After holding dozens of interviews, members of the Newark Community Street Team said it's evident —  intergenerational trauma is plaguing pockets of the community and leading to much of the violence.

"People with a lot of pain, a lot of disconnection who are involved in very personal, interpersonal disputes," said Elizabeth "E" Ruebman, deputy director of the Newark Community Street Team.

Part of their focus is to suggest community violence intervention or CIV tactics, such as additional victim services.

"As [Mayor Kenny Alexander] was saying, it's not going to be the CVI agency by itself or the law enforcement by itself. It's an ecosystem," said Aqeela Sherrills, president and board chair of the Newark Community Street Team.

Other recommended areas of improvement include school programs and the housing authority.

“We did not see any meaningful violence intervention programs at either," Ruebman added. "And we feel that there were missing incredibly opportunities, such 'safe passage' at school or housing authority itself to fund violence intervention work.”

Council members, like Tommy Smigiel, acknowledged that funding will have to come from the city's end as well. 

"We have to figure out a way. It's not the school system doing work separate from the city. It's a collaboration," said Smigiel. 

Street team leaders also recommended the kickstart low-barrier mini-grants to area organizations like Teens with a Purpose and Stop the Violence Team.

"Serving [homicide] hotspots and serving people who are most likely to become injured or become a perpetrator of harm in those hotspots," said Ruebman. 

City Manager Chip Filer mentioned that he will work with a colleague to create a presentation and layout of the mini-grant initiative.

Filer expressed that he wants to set it before council for approval on June 28. He assured there is money available to help nonprofit organizations, also working to prevent and intervene violence in the city. 

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