PITTSFIELD - A Western Massachusetts native with experience working for the United Nations in the Mideast has been named to head city efforts to assist at-risk youth and combat the influence of gangs.
Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi announced in a release that Adam G. Hinds, 37, will serve as the coordinator for the Shannon Grant program in Pittsfield.
Bianchi said he looks forward to Hinds expanding upon the similar efforts that began in 2013 to improve the quality of life and opportunities for young people.
"Adam Hinds will bring significant experience and perspective in the area of conflict resolution and youth development initiatives," Bianchi said.
"Mr. Hinds brings to this position a strong background in diplomacy, conflict resolution and community mobilization," the mayor said. "He has worked for the United Nations for the past 10 years, most recently in the Department of Political Affairs at UN headquarters as a political affairs officer working on Syria to eliminate that country's chemical weapons program."
Hinds also was an adviser to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan during the effort to secure a cease fire in Syria in 2012.
He previously spent two years in Jerusalem, where he was the chief regional adviser to the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process. And he spent nearly four years in Iraq as Team Leader of a UN-led negotiation in Iraq between the government and the Kurdistan region over disputed internal boundaries and in 2005-06 to advise on national dialogue.
Hinds is a 2003 graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, with a master of art in Law and Diplomacy, and he received a bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University in 1998.
He also worked on the Kerry for President campaign in 2003-04 and worked on the staff of former U.S. Rep. John Olver, D-Mass., and was Olver's campaign manager in 2000.
Originally from Shelburne Falls, he is relocating to the Berkshires and said he looks forward to working with the local social service organizations as well as the criminal justice sector.
"I hope to use the knowledge gained through my work in some pretty challenging locations to help keep our communities safe right here at home," Hinds said in the release. "Partnering with the social service organizations in the area will be central to this effort."
Hinds, who is expected to begin work this week, will be paid $40,000.
The Shannon Grant concentrates on five central elements for a gang intervention program: community mobilization, provision of opportunity, suppression, social intervention and organizational change. The target is at-risk youth, ages 14 to 24, living in neighborhoods where gang violence is prevalent.
Through collaborative efforts of the city, the Police Department, Berkshire County Sheriff's Department and several community organizations, in 2013 the program worked with more than 200 youth using the Community Center at Dower Square as a base.
The Charles E. Shannon initiative is a state-funded program which focuses on comprehensive gang prevention and management. In January, the city was awarded $100,000 after submitting a competitive grant request to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. This was an increase over last year's initial award of $60,000.
--- Jim Therrien