Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City has experienced one year with no shootings, and to build on that success, Mayor Bill de Blasio went there on Friday to announce the creation of the Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence.
The office will be responsible for implementing “effective, innovative violence intervention strategies” and $22.5 million will be allocated for this office this fiscal year. Annually, the City Council and the administration will direct $16 million to the office.
“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,” de Blasio said. “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.”
The city has the lowest incidence of gun violence in any major U.S. city and 2016 had the fewest shootings in more than 30 years. There were a reported 335 murders in 2016 compared to 352 in 2015. In 2000 that number was 673 and in 1990 there were 2,262 murders in the city.
Eric Cumberbatch, the new executive director of the office, will expand on the Cure Violence model currently used by the city. The city deploys teams of messengers mediate conflicts in violence-prone areas and connect high-risk individuals to services that can reduce risk of violence.
Queensbridge Houses, the nation’s largest public housing complex, has its own Cure Violence office located at the public housing development
“OPGV will coordinate, amplify and organize community based efforts to develop and deploy innovative strategies to continue to reduce gun violence citywide,” Cumberbatch said. “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.”
Messenger teams will conduct weekly workshops and one-on-one mentoring at Close to Home facilities and two secure detention facilities to help people diffuse conflicts.
The NYPD will also hold “open debriefs” in neighborhoods after major “takedowns” like the drug bust in Astoria Houses earlier this year. In addition, the office will also deploy legal services, therapeutic mental health services, and links to employment after these “takedowns.”
“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.”