As we detailed in a feature story earlier this month, The Gang War that Wasn’t, Lance and Todd Feurtado brought the SNUG anti-violence program to the Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway days after a 2011 gang-related murder turned the neighborhood into a powder keg. The brothers’ conflict resolution team helped diffuse the high tension–there would be no gun violence over the initiative’s 11-plus months there. They ran out of funding in June 2012, and there has been peace at Redfern since.
Now, the Feurtado’s hope to find the same success in South Jamaica, Queens, their old stomping grounds.
See out cover story on the Feurtados: The Gang War That Wasn’t
Even while they were stationed in the Rockaways, the Feurtados had been aiming to expand their work with SNUG, a street-level mediation strategy based on the CeaseFire initiative made famous in Chicago and Boston. South Jamaica, which contains some of the city’s higher-crime pockets, was at the top of the list.
With Far Rockaway reaching a level of tranquility, the brothers couldn’t secure more financial backing for the neighborhood. So they focused their fundraising efforts on South Jamaica. With grants form the New York Community Trust and 21 Century Inc., the program is ready to go.
“The money is in place,” says Lance. “Just waiting for the green light from [the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services] to submit the new proposal.”
The brothers have decades old ties to South Jamaica. It’s where they grew up. And it’s where they built the Seven Crowns gang into one of the nation’s most formidable drug enterprises back in the ’80s and early ’90s. After a decade each in prison and a career shift away from hustling, they still call the neighborhood home.
“We’re looking forward to getting up and running,” Lance says. “We’re gonna hit the ground running.”
They plan to focus Snug in the area around the Sean Elijah Bell Community Center.The Feurtados already know the neighborhood well. They know the potential beefs and they know many of the players, including the instigators, “the dudes that put the batteries in the back.”
Over the past two years, the brothers have run a youth program at August Martin High School, which sits south of Baisley Pond Park. The “Warriors Tour” targets the most high risk kids–those with criminal histories who are known members of a gang and those who are known to carry firearms. During the school year before their program, August Martin tallied 235 incidents of violence and truancy. Over the program’s first year, that number dropped to 181.
To explain the success of programs like the Warriors Tour and Snug, Lance likes to tell a story about elephants. After poachers and population-control measures killed off many elephants in South Africa some years ago, Lance explains, locals began noticing rhinoceros carcasses all over the place. Turned out that baby male elephants had been the culprits. Park rangers were stumped by the animals’ abnormal aggression.
A 2000 BBC News piece reported the baby elephants had ripped apart at least 36 rhinos.
Eventually, researchers found a solution: “they brought in adult elephants from another region,” Lance says. The older male presence, the researchers found, was essential to raising the next generation.