A young man is shot, wakes up in the hospital and wants to retaliate. That’s where the Newark Community Street Team comes in. It’s a nonprofit made up of guys and girls from the neighborhood who intervene in disputes around the city in an effort to prevent more gun violence.
“It’s a mentorship. We don’t let a 48-hour window go without contacting them and seeing where they’re at in their transition because being a victim of gun violence is something tremendous, and it’s a traumatic situation,” said Malik Latimore, a high risk interventionist at Newark Community Street Team. “Here at Newark Community Street Team we had individuals who actually shot each other. We mediated those situations to a peaceful outcome.”
They say many of the violent altercations are over simple problems.
“Mostly over a girl, or some form of adolescent stuff that we could have got ahead of before it had to get to this stream of violence,” said high risk interventionist team supervisor Byron Kelley.
Because of the intensity of the situations, team members go through rigorous conflict resolution training.
“If two groups have a conflict, you tell group one that group two don’t want no problem, group two might look at that as a sign of weakness,” said Shabazz High School team leader Shayne Love. “So with these conflicts, resolutions, they delicate.”
The team is no stranger to the streets — many have experienced gun violence and even prison. Some even came through the Newark Community Street Team program, and by processing their own trauma, are able to help others.
“Coming home from doing eight years in prison, I was like I’m not about to get no job right now. But my mentor stayed on me like, ‘Bro, get out the streets,'” said outreach worker Sadi North. “Being in the program taught me I was a trauma victim. I didn’t know no better. I thought this is what happens living in Newark. But it’s like, nah, there’s better, there’s different ways to live.”
“During my last incarceration, my younger brother succumbed to gun violence and that really changed the way I thought. Coming home and trying to stop the cycle of violence,” said Latimore. “I refuse, I refuse to retaliate for my brother’s death. And it still hurts me, but I made that decision. Also, I said I will help people who are willing.”
Sometimes people reach out, other times the team just shows up. The Safe Passage program helps keep kids safe on the way home from school. Their presence, and their reputation, gives them credibility with kids.
“They are more likely to take help from someone they know besides a stranger. And then when you go around and hear NCST, they like ‘Oh, I heard about you. Let me tell you what’s going on,'” said North.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has credited the organization with helping to drive down crime in the city. It’s an effort, this team says, has just started.