A $1 million gang-prevention grant application presumed dead last week was revived yesterday as individuals and groups offered to provide the township’s matching portion of the award, officials said.
To win the federal money – and create a police task force and youth prevention programs to cripple a growing gang network here – the township would be responsible for 25 percent of the grant, or $250,000 over five years.
On Friday, Mayor Robert W. Singer said setting aside $50,000 in the municipal budget next year is not possible. But by Monday, a day before the application was due to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Singer said he received enough assurances from individuals and groups promising to help financially to make it possible.
“I told the (township) manager to include it ($50,000) in the budget, and we’ll find money to offset it,” he said. “Based on that and the importance of the project, we’re moving forward with it.”
The mayor did not go into specifics about who approached him or how the money would be raised. He did say there would be enough to meet that 25 percent requirement each year.
The “Weed and Seed” application calls for a 10-officer task force to monitor and diminish the gang presence in schools and neighborhoods.
The grant also would go toward youth, education and employment services for those wishing to avoid gangs, as well as a re-entry program for past offenders. One service already on board is Redeem-Her, a re-entry program for women offenders, said its founder, Stacey Kindt.
Yet securing the $1 million is far from certain. The U.S. Department of Justice hands out, on average, only 15 of the grants per year nationwide, said Ervin Oross, who wrote Lakewood’s application. In New Jersey, six Weed and Seed sites exist, according to the program’s Internet data center.
“It’s extremely competitive,” Oross said.
Lakewood’s first application for the grant in 2007 was unsuccessful. Yet officials here hope that this year – which carried some high-profile crime stories, from the shooting of a policeman to a gang execution trial – federal officials will pay more attention to the problem. Between 300 and 500 gang members operate in Lakewood, according to the grant application.