A Year of the Work with SNUG Utica

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As SNUG Utica reached its one-year mark doing great work in our community, we took time to reflect on 2023 and the impact of that extremely important work.

NYS SNUG Outreach (SNUG) is an evidence-based violence reduction initiative that was first established in New York State in 2009. The program engages the highest-risk individuals who are causing violence in communities with high rates of violent crime, addresses the issues that may be causing high-risk individuals to engage in gun violence, and educates the community on how violence is spread. SNUG prioritizes those who are most at risk of being impacted by gun violence.

We employ credible messengers and social workers to support both victims and those who commit crimes. Gun violence affects EVERYONE. Families. Loved ones. Neighborhoods. Whole Communities. Shooters. Victims. Survivors. Our credible messengers are those who have walked in our participants’ shoes, have the stories and personal experience to relate to them and who are trusted. It is so important for this work... to WORK.

Here are five areas that we are proud of and where we are made a difference in 2023:

1) The real, on-the-ground, one-on-one work is done with our participants.

Here’s what we do:

Engage the highest-risk individuals
This means we work directly with individuals in our city who are known gun carriers or most at risk of shooting or being shot. We know them. We work with them. We ensure they have their basic needs met and we teach/show them that gun violence is not the norm. 

Mentor high-risk youth and connect them with job training, education and more
What do our participants need? How can we help them get it? We reach out to our massive list of resources – partners, referrals, ICAN and more – to get our participants connected where they need... for whatever they need.  

  • Mentoring can provide guidance and positive role models.
  • Teaching them life skills that are essential for success.
  • Academic support can help improve educational outcomes and lower dropout rates.
  • Job training and employment programs can offer opportunities for career development.
  • And most importantly, mental health support services can address their emotional well-being. 

All of these initiatives can help even the highest risk individual thrive on the path to a safe and sustainable future.

Mediate conflicts and disputes to prevent retaliation
Retaliation can be deadly. The SNUG team mediates conflicts and disputes with individuals to decrease or eliminate the chance for additional gun violence to occur. This is hands-on, intense work that we are trained to do.

Partnerships are of the utmost importance for success
Our participants need support at home, at school and in the community and only through deep, productive and dedicated partnerships can we truly lift a young person up in the life changing way we need to through SNUG. 

There are important outlets that we identify that can reach our participants through different means, right where they’re at. Dedicated adults become protective factors in these young men’s lives and strengthen our work by filling in a piece of support that is needed. Partnerships assure that we know about anything that’s going on with our participants’ lives, and we can step in to help keep them positive and on track.



2) When there is a shooting in the City of Utica... SNUG IS THERE. 

We show up. We call for individuals and neighborhoods to take a stand. We call for involvement. We hand out materials to everyone that walks by, bikes by or drives by our rallies for people to learn more about our work. ALL of our voices are heard in the street... because it MATTERS. 

The strong social media engagement we have built over the past year has been a beacon to get our message across, to rally supports and involve those who want to join us in making a safer community for all.

In our first year, we held 26 shooting responses in the City of Utica. We honestly wish there weren’t that many, as it is an indicator of the true gun violence issue we are faced with every day. But for every incident, we were there and doing all we can for everyone involved. Working together is the only way we can reduce gun violence in our city. 


3) Sometimes, the little things mean EVERYthing.

At the end of the day, our participants are KIDS… young men who might not have support or resources in their lives to have recreation or cultural experiences. We coordinated and took these young men to 23 participant events!

Some of our favorite moments include:

We had a chance to practice etiquette and show gratitude by taking their moms or mom-figures to a Mother’s Day dinner. They attended a magical performance by Illusionist Leon Etienne at The Stanley Theatre. They attempted something they’d never done before when they snowboarded at Woods Valley, tackling the most difficult trails on day ONE! We have taken them roller skating, race car driving and out to many other offerings in our area to allow them time to decompress, have some fun - and just be kids!


4) Organize events and projects to engage neighbors and show the community’s stand against violence

You’ve seen us out there! Cook-outs, holiday dinners, kickball games, basketball events – every opportunity there is to bring people together, we’re all about it. These are events that the public can come out to, to get to know our team and immerse in the community. We’re activating public spaces with music, food and happiness - knowing that is the recipe for genuine community connection. It’s also a chance for participants to be surrounded by positivity and get to know their neighbors and those who can help support them.  

In 2023, we hosted 12 community events!


5) Strengthening the bonds in our community helps every individual and family

Working with other organizations and groups who are offering services to youth and educating them on what SNUG can offer is imperative to growing our community stronger from within AND serving our participants in the best way we can. We can’t do it alone; we need the village to work alongside us.

In our first year, we did 35 community group presentations – BOCES, Rebuilding the Village, Cornhill Cares, Cornhill Neighborhood Association Midtown Utica Community Center, Hamilton College and local churches are just a handful of the important relationships that were built.