A new educational initiative in Cumberland County aims to provide youth in public housing with the skills to combat gang and gun violence, according to a news release from the county Prosecutor’s Office.

The state Juvenile Justice Commission’s Office of Gang Management, county Prosecutor’s Office and housing authorities in Bridgeton, Millville and Vineland are working together to implement the Phoenix Curriculum, which targets at-risk youth, according to the release.

It’s “never too early to work on prevention and helping youths gain the skills that help them to handle high-risk situations,” Community Justice Coordinator Mark Anderson said.

The Phoenix Curriculum helps at-risk youth identify high-risk situations, places and choices and teaches them the skills to avoid those situations, Anderson said.

Violent crime in the county from January to October is down to 506 reported incidents from 678 during the same period last year, a difference of 25.4 percent, according to the State Police Uniform Crime Report, which tracks crime data submitted by police departments throughout New Jersey.

Three forums will be held to announce the initiative to the public: 7 to 8 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Greater Bridgeton Family Success Center, 155 Spruce St., Bridgeton; 6 to 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at Holly Berry Court, Holly Berry Lane, Millville; and 7 to 8 p.m. Dec. 13 at Asselta Acres, Corbin Center, 334 Axtel Ave., Vineland. All of them are open to the public.

“The leadership forum, we hope, will bring out residents who may wish to volunteer to become trained facilitators to work with the youths,” Anderson said.

They’re looking to work with small groups of about eight young people ages 10-15 with 10 sessions to start, he said, adding the training and curriculum are free.

“This program marries very nicely with our CC THRIVE initiative which seeks to prevent and combat gang and gun violence amongst 10 to 25-year-olds in our community,” Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said.

CC THRIVE, or the Cumberland Collective to Help Reverse Inequality and Violence Everywhere, is an initiative funded by a nearly $740,000 grant from the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency’s Safe and Thriving Communities program to combat gang and gun violence and its impact on youth in Vineland, Millville and Bridgeton.

Contact: 609-272-7241

Mbilinski@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressMollyB

Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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