Mayor de Blasio, City Council Launch Mayor's Office to Prevent Gun Violence

February 3, 2017

New York City already has lowest incidence of gun violence of any major U.S. city: 2016 had the fewest shootings in over 30 years

NEW YORK—Mayor de Blasio today announced the creation of the Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence. Housed within the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the new Office will oversee an expansion of effective, innovative violence intervention strategies. The City is investing $22.5 million this fiscal year, split between the Administration and the City Council. In the future, the Administration is investing  $16 million annually.

“When I talk to people across this city, it’s clear that New Yorkers in every neighborhood are united in their desire for safe streets,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Law enforcement is critical in reducing gun violence, but we also need to change a culture in which conflicts too often escalate to shootings. Today, we are inviting all New Yorkers to become our partners in this fight – together, we can make it clear that gun violence has no place in New York City.”

“2016 was the safest year on record in New York City history. The Office to Prevent Gun Violence – along with neighborhood policing – will enable us to further reduce crime. I’m grateful to the effort from law enforcement, the Mayor, the Council, and most importantly our local communities who continue to work collectively with us to keep our neighborhoods safe,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill.

Eric L Cumberbatch, Executive Director of the Mayor's Office to Prevent Gun Violence said, “The launch of the Mayor's Office to Prevent Gun Violence is a true testament to the power of government and community working hand in hand to promote safety and synergy from within. OPGV will coordinate, amplify and organize community based efforts to develop and deploy innovative strategies to continue to reduce gun violence citywide. OPGV will do this by working together with our justice partners, community based organizations, clergy, residents, and credible messengers to meet the complex challenges of gun violence, which are multifaceted and go way beyond the gun.”

“Gun violence has dropped to thirty-year lows and driving it down further will require innovative strategies that include traditional law enforcement and extend beyond to engage residents and neighborhoods as partners in fighting crime,” said Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. “The new Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence will be the backbone of these innovative strategies, overseeing an expanded City commitment to deploy ‘credible messengers’ who work tirelessly to interrupt conflict before violence erupts  and increasing support and resources in neighborhoods with a historically high concentration of gun violence.”

“We are excited to join the Mayor in announcing the creation of the Office to Prevent Gun Violence,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “We are thankful for the Mayor's commitment to expand the Cure Violence program, which the Health Department has been implementing with community partners for the last four years. This office allows for sustained action and strong interagency and community collaboration to keep New Yorkers safe.”

“Since taking office, Mayor de Blasio has invested millions in new lights, security cameras, infrastructure improvements and programs that are making a meaningful difference in our communities,” said NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. “Thanks to this intensive collaborative effort led by the Mayor, Queensbridge Houses has gone a year without a single shooting.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, “I have committed my entire career to combating the senseless bloodshed in our streets, and I could not be prouder of the incredible work that violence interrupters and community advocates have achieved in advancing peace across our city. The City’s Crisis Management System works because it invests in proven public health strategies that address the societal challenges associated with gun violence, and we need to keep investing in its growth and development. Community and police, in partnership, are making reductions in violence possible. I stand shoulder to shoulder with Mayor de Blasio as well as every woman and man who has dedicated their heart and soul to making New York City a safer place to raise healthy children and families.”

"The reduction in gun violence achieved under the de Blasio administration has spared an untold number of people from death and injury and shielded many others from the deep and painful emotional suffering  that comes when a family member or friend is killed or wounded in a shooting," said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. "The dramatic milestone in gun violence reduction reached today at Queensbridge Houses is especially encouraging and welcome. Mayor de Blasio and his entire team, including the dedicated officers of the NYPD, along with community violence prevention partners like LIFE Camp in Queens, should be commended for their unceasing efforts to end gun violence."

"The most challenging aspect of being a New York City Council Member is receiving the call that a member of your community has been killed as a result of a senseless act of gun violence. I proudly introduced legislation to create the first ever Mayor's Office to End Gun Violence in the nation. Today is a historic day in New York City as Mayor de Blasio, in partnership with the New York City Council, advocates and gun violence interrupters transform this concept into a reality. As the Trump Administration calls for archaic and ineffective practices such as Stop and Frisk and bringing in the National Guard to address gun violence in urban cities, I am inspired that this legislation will create a national model that does not see the NYPD as the only solution to ending gun violence but rather a new strategy that involves New York City agencies, not-for -profit organizations, schools, houses of worship, mental health practitioners and most importantly the members of the community," said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo, Chair of the Committee on Women's Issues.

Vanessa Gibson, Chair of Public Safety Committee, said, "Gun violence is a tragic epidemic that has stolen the lives of far too many. Though we have seen a decrease in violence citywide, too many of our communities are still gripped by the realities of America's gun violence epidemic. As Chair of the Committee on Public Safety, I am proud and excited to see this day and join my colleagues in announcing the Mayor's Office to End Gun Violence. This first-of-its-kind mayoral office will focus on combining evidence based practices with community violence interrupters to drive down shootings in every corner of our city. Our holistic approach to addressing gun violence will couple wraparound services with data driven practices while also focusing on the root causes of why many engage in gun violence. I thank Mayor de Blasio, the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice Executive Director Elizabeth Glazer, the New York City Council and the incredible work of my colleagues Council Members Jumaane Williams and Laurie Cumbo for their partnership and ongoing commitment to creating a safer city for all. Peace is a lifestyle that can be achieved and New Yorkers deserve nothing less."

"As co-Chair of the City Council's Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, I would like to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio for his support for holistic anti-gun violence initiatives in neighborhoods that need it the most. Preventing shootings cannot be left to policing tactics alone. It’s important that we use a multi-pronged approach involving all City agencies, community members and community groups on the ground. Our city is a better place because this Mayor, along with the City Council, embraced the idea that only a comprehensive approach will succeed in drastically reducing gun violence. It's been acknowledged through funding, and today, through this critical announcement, we take a very an integral next step,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, co-Chair of the Task Force to Combat Gun Violence.

Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer said, “Gun violence has been decreasing across the city, and nowhere is this more evident than Queensbridge, the nation's largest public housing development, which I represent. Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated a full year without gun violence in this neighborhood. It took concerted efforts from many people and organizations to reach this victory. I look forward to working with the administration and all of our community partners to extend the 365 days of peace for days, months, and years to come.”  

State Senator Michael Gianaris said, “As the author of many of the most important provisions of the SAFE Act, I know firsthand how much of a difference sensible and responsible gun laws can make. I am proud to represent the good people of Queensbridge Houses and acknowledge the efforts of our community to take a stand against violence.”

“My father grew up in Queensbridge houses and it has always been a welcoming place,” said Assembly Member Catherine Nolan. “This wonderful, widely successful initiative by Mayor de Blasio and Council Majority Leader Van Bramer is returning us to the safety we have always deserved.  My congratulations also to K. Bain for his leadership and also to residents association president April Simpson Taylor,  Eddie Cadiz,  PSA 9,  Marion Jeffries-NAACP ,  Bishop Mitchell Taylor-Urban Upbound  and Chris Hanawy-Jacob Riis Settlement for all their support as well.”

“I am thankful that the City of New York has made an unprecedented and collaborative effort to redefine what public safety means. Successes like ours at 696 Build Queensbridge alongside the other Cure Violence sites within the Crisis Management System demonstrates what is possible when we address the root causes of violence in our communities. We are proud to be a part of this initiative that not only addresses violence as a public health issue but engages the impacted community in its leadership and implementation. We applaud the leadership of the New York City Council and Mayor de Blasio in their continued and courageous investment in this public health prevention strategy that we call Cure Violence,” said K. Bain, Founding Director of 696 Build Queensbridge.

New York City is already at the forefront nationally in the fight to end gun violence: the City has the lowest incidence of gun violence of any major U.S. city, has enacted some of the strongest gun laws in the country, and pioneered a data-driven policing model that helped to drive an 83 percent decline in homicides between 1993 and 2016. Since the start of Mayor de Blasio’s administration, gun arrests are up 19 percent in New York City while the number of stop-and-frisks has fallen 93 percent. Reducing the remaining gun violence in the city will require not only the continuation of these strategies, but also innovative approaches that extend beyond traditional law enforcement to shift social norms and activate New Yorkers to help prevent shootings. The Office announced today will serve as the backbone of these innovative efforts.

The first new strategy the Office will pursue is expanding effective violence interruption strategies developed by Crisis Management System – over the last three years, the City has deployed teams of credible messengers who use the Cure Violence model to mediate conflicts on the street and connect high-risk individuals to services that can reduce the long-term risk of violence. This approach contributed to a 15 percent decline in shootings in the 17 highest violence precincts in New York City since Mayor de Blasio took office.

Under the direction of Eric Cumberbatch, the new Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence, the Office will add the following new services to the Crisis Management System:

  • Intervention workshops in juvenile justice facilities. In several Close to Home facilities and in the two secure detention facilities for juveniles in New York City, credible messenger teams will conduct weekly workshops and one-on-one mentoring to arm young people with the skills to diffuse conflicts without violence.
  • Help neighborhoods rebuild after takedowns. The days immediately following a “takedown” or other major law enforcement action can be volatile, and helping a neighborhood to rebuild can be a critical step in ensuring that previous violence is not repeated. To help neighborhoods stabilize peacefully, the Mayor’s Office of Gun Violence is partnering with the NYPD to hold open debriefs with residents after major takedowns to answer questions and share information about the enforcement action. After takedowns, the Office will also saturate affected neighborhoods with resources to prevent future crime, including legal services, therapeutic mental health services, and links to employment, using funding from the Crisis Management System budget.
  • Launch a Community Toolkit and Safe in the City grants to activate New Yorkers in helping reduce gun violence. The new Office is rolling out a guide to help New Yorkers connect to anti-violence activities already available on the ground in neighborhoods across the city, provide information about how to report information about a crime safely and anonymously, and offer resources to help families and neighborhoods in the aftermath of a violent event. Additionally, the Office will provide small grants to residents to support neighborhood-driven anti-violence efforts.

The Mayor’s Office and the City Council jointly fund the Crisis Management System; in the current fiscal year, the funding is $22.5 million, half of which is funded by the Council. In the future, the City is investing an additional $4.5 million in these efforts.

Overwhelmingly, the norm in New York City is peace. In even the highest-crime precinct in New York City, over 99 percent of residents have never been a suspect in a shooting case, and New York City is on pace to have the lowest number of shootings in over 30 years; year-to-date, shootings are down 20 percent compared to last year and 83 percent compared to an all-time high in 1993.

Today’s announcement was made at Queensbridge Houses, North America’s largest public housing complex. Since the start of Mayor de Blasio’s administration, murders and shootings in public housing developments are down 17 percent and 9 percent respectively. There has not been a shooting at Queensbridge Houses in over a year. Last year’s 998 shootings marked the fewest ever in New York City.

The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Cure Violence program – which has an office located Queensbridge Houses property – has deployed teams throughout New York City since 2015. Its members work to intervene in conflicts before violence erupts and ensure that individuals at risk of being involved in violence are connected with effective programs and services that can help lead to lasting peace.

Queensbridge is one of 15 NYCHA developments targeted by the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety, a comprehensive initiative to reduce crime and strengthen neighborhoods in the 15 New York City Housing Authority developments that accounted for 20 percent of all violent crime in the City’s public housing in 2014. In 2014, as part of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety, the City allocated $13.6 million for the installation of permanent, state-of-the-art safety lighting. The installation is underway.

The Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood safety also funds a series of initiatives aimed at increasing pathways to opportunity and creating more connected public housing communities, including mentoring and jobs programs for young adults and Community Center programming for seniors.

In addition to launching public safety initiatives to further reduce crime at public housing developments citywide, the de Blasio administration and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced in July 2015 a $10 million investment in free high-speed broadband service for five public housing developments citywide, including Queensbridge North and South. The Mayor also recently announced $1 billion in allocated funding for new roofs on over 700 NYCHA buildings as part of the FY18 Preliminary Budget.

Additional City investments in the Queensbridge Houses community include:

  • $14.7 million for installation of CCTV and higher-security Layered Access Control (LAC) Doors, which are operated by computer system and fob keys
  • $1.65 million for grounds improvements, including upgrades to recreational spaces
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