University Receives $1 Million in Federal Funding for Gun Violence Prevention
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal recently visited campus to announce funding for the University’s Lee College and School of Health Sciences that will support the use of data analytics in helping to prevent gun violence. The grant will also create learning experiences for students – and the announcement itself has already led to a unique opportunity for one criminal justice major.
March 29, 2023
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
For Makayla Mansur ’25, her life changed forever in December 2012 when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children and six educators. Mansur was just a child herself, growing up in a town not far from Newtown.
Mansur says her experience as a public-school student was never the same after that. She experienced fear and anxiety, she explains, feeling unsafe in a place where she was supposed to be protected and supported. Her mother too, she says, was also nervous when she dropped her off at school after that.
“To a child, this is terrifying,” said Mansur, of North Haven, Conn. “Then I had to watch the nation be shocked over countless school shootings over the years. Children my age were being murdered in a place where they were supposed to learn, grow, and mature.”
Mansur, a criminal justice major, says her experience continues to impact her. She says she has strong opinions when it comes to gun control legislation and finding solutions to gun violence. That’s why she was interested in attending a recent press conference at the University, during which U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal announced $1 million in federal funding for the University’s Lee College and School of Health Sciences that will support community-based policing efforts in the Greater New Haven area.
“It was nice to learn that high-ranking members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation believe gun violence to be a public health epidemic,” said Mansur. “As a criminal justice major, I have been part of many class discussions about how to retroactively prevent crime instead of reacting to a crime that already occurred. This initiative is taking research from our University to come up with programs and interventions to prevent gun violence and future crime.”
‘It takes a whole community’
Sen. Blumenthal says the funding aims to help develop strategies that will specifically focus on reducing and preventing gun violence, as well as on community-based policing. It will provide support for the use of data analytics in helping to prevent gun violence and support more staff and critical equipment.
“It takes a whole community to combat violence, and that’s the reason why this $1 million is so potentially impactful,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “This is a lot of money, but gun violence is one of the biggest problems we face in Connecticut and in our country. Community intervention is one of the potential keys to unlocking solutions.”
“This is a milestone to bring everything together,” said Dr. Henry C. Lee, world-renowned forensic scientist, who joined Sen. Blumenthal at the podium. “It pulls together everyone’s experience. Gun violence isn’t only a Connecticut problem. It’s a U.S. problem.”
‘Enable us to better allocate our resources’
The funding, explained Sen. Blumenthal, comes from congressionally directed spending – formerly known as an earmark. By supporting both the Lee College and the School of Health Science, it enables experts with criminal justice and public health backgrounds to take a multidisciplinary approach to gun violence – an approach the University has long supported.
“We’re taking a holistic approach to gun violence,” explained Lorenzo Boyd, Ph.D., holder of the Stewart Professorship in Criminal Justice and Community Policing. “We’re going to spend a lot of time training police officers on trauma-informed policing to build bridges between the police and the community. This is another situation in which members of the University of New Haven leave campus, roll up our sleeves, and move into the community to make a difference.”
“We are going to be helping the New Haven Police Department with the Real Time Crime Center,” added Lisa Dadio, M.S., MSW, assistant dean of the Lee College and director of the University’s Center for Advanced Policing. “We’ll be looking at the data that’s provided as to where crime is happening, when it’s happening – in particular gun violence – and analyzing those data to have an impact in reducing violent crime in the city of New Haven.”
“We’re really excited about this opportunity,” said Betsy Francis-Connolly, Ph.D., dean of the School of Health Sciences. “We know gun violence is a public health issue, so the unique part of this is to marry public health with public safety and to gather the data to understand and to intervene at the community level.”
This funding will offer members of the University community opportunities to collaborate with local community leaders. At least three major community-based clinics will be included in this important work, and it will also include local law enforcement officials, including the New Haven Police Department. Assistant Chief Bertram Ettienne explained that addressing gun violence is complex, as there is not just one answer, but there are many layers.
“We are optimistic about this partnership with the University,” he said. “We expect the data it yields will enable us to better allocate our resources to prevent and solve crime.”
‘He personally invited me to work for him’
The funding will also create a variety of opportunities for students, including at least four paid work-study opportunities, internships, and opportunities to conduct research and independent studies.
The press conference itself has led to a possible opportunity for Mansur, the criminal justice major. When she raised her hand and shared her experience and views at the press conference, Sen. Blumenthal said that she should be working in his office. She had the opportunity to meet him after the press conference, and Connecticut’s senior senator was impressed.
“I will be applying for an internship at Senator Blumenthal’s office in the fall, since at the press conference he personally invited me to work for him,” said Mansur. “I am so excited for this opportunity.”