New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams today released a series of city, state, and federal recommendations to combat the rise in gun violence. The strategies build on the approach he has championed for years, including as Chair of the Council's Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, and which contributed to bringing crime to historic lows prior to a nationwide rise in violence coinciding with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These recommendations come amid an overall increase in shootings in New York City and multiple tragic instances of gun violence in just the last week, including the shooting of an eleven month old in the Bronx who marked her first birthday in the hospital. Four NYPD officers were shot in the last week, including Officer Jason Rivera, who lost his life on Friday night.
"In the news and in our neighborhoods, we are seeing constant tragedy and loss, and our city is grieving. As we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and confront the gun violence epidemic, it’s critical that we learn the lessons of both the policies that helped make our streets the safest they had been in decades, and the underlying structural issues that created conditions for gun violence to rise during the last two years,” said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. "With a new mayor in New York City and a new governor in Albany, we have a new opportunity to embrace and invest in strategies which have too often been treated as second tier, and reduce gun violence while strengthening the communities most affected. I urge our new executives to structuralize, rather than compartmentalize, efforts which have been proven to save lives and approaches that will have immediate and long-term benefits to public health and safety."
The recommendations, which can be downloaded here, incorporate elements from the Public Advocate’s 2020 framework for reimagining public safety, as well as new measures to meet the current moment and help prevent the rise in violence in the last two years from continuing through 2022.
In New York City, the Public Advocate’s recommendations include:
- Increased investment in the Mayor’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention, and better integrating that office’s work with other mayoral agencies
- Linking the Crisis Management System with the Department of Education and other agencies so that alternative programming can be provided through collaborative partners
- Funding data research programs that provide services while unearthing the invisible economies that drive crime, which are often housing, mental health services, safe schools and employment opportunities.
- Investing in accessible, community-led community centers, recreational parks and outdoor community spaces
- Creating paid opportunities for community members to learn and apply skills related to social emotional support and civic engagement
- Law enforcement roles are important, can involve great risk, and should be done with transparency and accountability. In fairness to community members and the NYPD, other services roles must be more defined, resourced, and integrated
- The mayor should include stakeholders from all agencies in discussions on the interpretation of crime statistics and its impact on public safety, include community stakeholders in COMPStat meetings, and focus data analysis on areas disproportionately impacted by gun violence.
- The NYPD residency requirements should reflect those of other municipal employees so that officers reflect the communities they serve, with limited hiring flexibility in cases where a demonstrated need for unique expertise is required.
- Law enforcement engagement should focus on gun trafficking and targeting high profile traffickers.
- The MOGVP should divert budgetary resources into expanding Public Safety Councils and Mobile Trauma Units in “hotspot areas” where engagement strategies require deeper support structures.
- DAs and judges must work together to quickly and sensibly address gun cases through the court system. They should prioritize alternatives for youth offenders where practical and expand funding for such alternatives.
- The city must address hate-fueled violence on the basis of race, sexual or gender identity, religion, and other forms of hatred against marginalized populations
- The NYC DOE should consult with LGBTQIA+ communities and implement targeted learning experiences in schools that promote acceptance of our trans neighbors as well as other communities targeted for hate violence.
- The city must prioritize access to mental health services, especially in low-income communities who experience gun-violence, to combat self-harm and suicide.
On the state level, the Public Advocate calls for:
- Legislative measures including
- S7198, The Judith S. Kaye Safe and Supportive Schools Act, to address the school-to-prison pipeline
- S7573, which expands eligibility for victims and survivors of crime to access victim compensation funds by removing the mandatory law enforcement reporting requirement and providing alternative forms of evidence that would show that a qualifying crime was committed.
- S1083, which establishes a center for firearm violence research in New York State
- S4116, which requires semiautomatic pistols manufactured or delivered to any licensed dealer in this state to be capable of microstamping ammunition
- S2881, which will ensure that New Yorkers with substance use disorders, mental health concerns, and other disabilities have an off-ramp from the criminal legal system to obtain treatment and support in their communities.
- Albany should assist local municipalities dealing with an increase in gun violence in a unified effort to address it.
- The governor should require local municipalities to develop a public safety plan, rather than simply a policing plan, to utilize integrative strategies to address all emergency services, and authorize funding tied to those plans
Federally, the Public Advocate recommends:
- Enacting Universal Background Checks
- Strengthening Interstate Trafficking Initiatives
- Holding all networks accountable to law for flooding communities with guns, while ensuring that laws do not lead to mass incarceration of impacted communities, and maintaining an oversight on the discretion of law enforcement during its implementation.
Read the full list of recommendations here.