Anti-Gang Group to Use Street Worker in Haverhill, Methuen with State Grant

From left to right, state Reps. Lenny Mirra and Linda Dean Campbell, Shannon grant coordinator Megan Shea and Rep. Andy Vargas. (Courtesy photograph.)

UTEC, known for its work reducing gang problems in Greater Lowell, is being tapped to tackle similar problems for at-risk youth in Haverhill and Methuen.

The nonprofit agency participated in Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s Task Force for Gang Violence last September. It will use part of a $130,000 state grant to hire at least one so-called “street worker” to build relationships with gang-involved youth and gang members about to be released from prison.

“Unless we intend to lock up our young people forever for crimes like drug dealing,” Fiorentini said, “we need to focus more on getting them out of gangs, giving them positive alternatives and addressing gang activity in more creative and comprehensive ways.”

UTEC, which provides jobs and educational opportunities to keep youth out of gangs, has become known for reducing the instances of youth returning to gang activities.

Besides Fiorentini, Rep. Linda Dean Campbell and others praised the intended use of the 2018 Sen. Charles E. Shannon Jr. Community Safety Initiative Grant Award.

Campbell said, “the funding from this grant will allow police and community partners to implement programs that will divert at-risk youth away from crime, gang affiliations and violence,” adding, “we know that these grants are effective and provide our youth with opportunities to lead productive lives.”

The Baker administration formally announced Monday that a total of $5.65 million in competitive grants were made statewide. Besides the $130,000 grant, an additional $26,953 was awarded to the UMass-Lowell for its Haverhill/Methuen research site.

Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro said “This funding will allow us to expand and enhance our gang resistance initiative by adding a rehabilitation component to include job skills training.”

State Rep. Andy Vargas said “effective prevention and community-based intervention strategies” will “provide young people with positive opportunities and outcomes and make Haverhill a safer place.”