Trenton Community Street Teams (TCST) has been hard at work engaging with community leaders, doing community service, and providing information to Trenton residents across the city.
Started earlier this year, TCST was created in response to the uptick in violent crime in recent years and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a part of the City of Trenton’s coordinated public safety strategy and is a partnership between A Better Way and Isles.
“We collaborated on many projects with Isles; when I got a phone call from John TK, it was a no-brainer,” said Perry Shaw III, the Executive Director of building a better way for Trenton and partner with aisles for the TCST.
The TCST is a Community-based violence prevention program that mirrors programs like Newark’s Street teams that have seen success in decreasing violence in Newark’s most crime-ridden areas.
“This initiative was a process; it wasn’t something that was a magic solution to the issue of violence. It was a progressive project. Over the years, they helped to reduce violence by 60%. And it’s westward, one of the most violent wards in Newark,” Shaw said.
Trenton has seen record homicides over the last two years, with 40 homicides in the cities in 2020 and 2021. In addition to homicides, incidences of assault and burglary also steadily increased between 2018 to 2020 and continue to rise. Violent crime remains a significant issue in the City, and the TCST is looking to make real change.
“We said okay, how can we apply what Newark has done, and make a trip specific. We’re not trying to make a quick cookie cutter. We want to try and utilize all the positive things Newark has done and apply it to Trenton.”
There are three pillars to the TCST: Self Development, Advocacy, and Community Engagement, each with its different set of programs to combat trauma.
“Focusing on self-development, helping individuals find better ways to help deal some of the issues when it comes to trauma, it’s important, providing counseling, whether that’s mental health counseling for individuals…We also want to ensure that when it comes to them, we provide pathways for individuals to help better their lives. That means credit counseling. That means helping people go from being a renter to a homeowner,” Shaw said.
TCST negotiates personal conflicts and diffuses tensions that could result in violence. The high-risk interventions include:
- Helping the community relocate domestic violence victims.
- Arranging the return of carjacking victims’ vehicles.
- Supporting the families of homicide victims to complete VCCO applications.
- Resolving drug disputes.
Corey Ingram, a clinical manager for Isles, explained that each client they help is different “Some clients might need a warm handoff to parent. Some clients might need off to housing, some might need mental health treatment, but we make that decision altogether,” Ingram said.
With at least 148 shooting victims in 2020 and more than a third of those incidents involving youth under 24, Ingram explains the importance of helping the entire family. “We want to help the families because how can we help the kids when they return to that same environment. . So we got to help the family,” Ingram said.
It leads into the next pillar, Community advocacy, where TCST pulls together resources and information already in the City to hand out to residents. Roberta Cinnamon Martin, High-Risk Interventionist with TCST, explained that they are looking to build up networks within the City.
“We see what’s going on in the community, reach out to the community, other community, partners, partners, community partners. Also, we’re starting to collect information from residents and people in the community or are asking for assistance,” Martin said. “Community partners just coming together to collaborate, you know, things that they may need, things that you know, services they that they offer that we can use, and you know, just trying to build a network.”
Shaw points out that this means being seen in the community. “That means doing community walks, working with the community and pointing out and finding issues that the community is having, whether it’s something as big as nefarious activity happening in their communities, or a light being out in their community.”
He adds that this is more about showing Trenton residents that they can make a change in their communities if they know how to. “The other aspects for the community is making sure that the community understands what’s going on, making sure they’re engaged, making sure they’re empowered. A lot of times, people don’t know how much power they have until it’s shown to them,” Shaw said.
The last pillar is Community engagement which changes like the seasons. In the summer, it can be trash clean-up; in the spring, it can be healthy eating lectures. Throughout the school year, it is Safe Passage. TCST partners with school security and the Trenton Police Department to provide outreach workers at key exits and entry points of schools, bus stops, stores, and intersections where youth congregate.
The overall goal of Safe Passage is to develop relationships with local youth and intervene and mediate in potential conflicts to ensure that students arrive at school and make it home from school in a safe and timely manner.
Each incident observed by TCST will be logged into a monthly report and kept on file for all partners to utilize.
“We are not police officers. We are not firefighters. We’re not crossing guards. We are one tool in the public safety toolbox…safe passage where presents a recognizable presence for youth coming to and from school,” Shaw said. “We’re making sure we’re watching out for nefarious activity that goes on, making sure that we’re that presence that’s there, that sometimes kids aren’t able to see.”
TCST have established relationships with the neighborhoods they work. The goal is to build relationships with communities to support survivors of violent crime and stop the cycle of violence in Trenton.
It is with the help of this network, in partnership with Trenton Public Safety and other partners, that it can work to address the root causes of violence and make Trenton a safer place for all of its residents.