We recently sat down with Hector Santiago, the father of the incredible Stop & Shake program. He took time out of his whirlwind schedule to tell us how he’s going to change the world… one handshake at a time… and it’s already happening! The Stop & Shake program is Hector’s personal response to the controversial Stop & Frisk policies maintained by police departments all over the country.
“Stop & Shake is a social icebreaker,” says Hector. “It’s about getting people to communicate with each other. It all started with a big protest in Getty Square for Mike Brown and Eric Garner. There was a lot of youth I mentored who wanted to do something. I took the ball and organized and we had more than 1,500 people show up for a peaceful protest. While there, I suggested to the cops that instead of “Stop & Frisk” they should try “Stop & Shake” and that’s when it started.”
And since then, it’s been a whirlwind for Hector. Not even he could imagine how successful the program would be or how much of an impact it would have on the local community. “It’s completely taken over my life,” he says. “It’s a business and a movement. I’ve gotten so many people to change their mindsets and to put love first.”
Hector’s days are full of meetings with government officials, running interpersonal workshops and forums, managing Stop & Shake stations, and in his spare time, he’s a student at Mount Saint Vincent College where he received a full scholarship in recognition of his efforts. He sits on the Yonkers Mayors Executive Board and is the Community and Police Liaison for the Yonkers YMCA.
Connecting with a Simple Gesture
“One thing I’ve realized is there are more good people than there are bad. I had this total stigma in my head against the police department because of my own encounters. But in a matter of two years, I went from not knowing one police officer to knowing almost 2,000 all over NY State. I know that there are so many more great officers than there are bad ones. If we can just get people connected with the good ones then the magic will take over. Support will be there… initiatives will get started. It’s a de-escalation process. At the end of one year of the Stop & Shake in Yonkers, I heard from the police commissioner that there had been a 22% drop in misdemeanor crimes in the city. It comes down to inclusion and respect. The Stop & Shake makes people feel included and respected. If criminals feel connected to a community, they are less likely to commit crimes in that community because they feel part of it. That’s what Stop & Shake is all about.”
They call him Hector the Connector. He brings people together, fosters communication, and changes hearts and minds. And we’re proud to say we know him!