Wills introduces bill to combat gang violence

Wills introduces bill to combat gang violence
Photo by Michael Shain
By Sadef Ali Kully

In an effort to curb gang violence across the city, Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) has reintroduced the Community Violence Prevention Act bill during a City Council hearing.

The Community Violence Prevention Act would create an independent commission to study the root causes of violence and make recommendations on how to counter the damaging effects, according to Wills’ office.

The bill was originally proposed in December 2013 as Intro 1040 but did not make it through the session due to city elections. This time the City Council session does not end until 2017 and Wills’ co-sponsor for the bill is Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn).

The commission would have 15 members appointed by the City Council, including agency heads as well as appointees by the mayor, the speaker and each of the Council’s borough delegations.

“Almost half of the shootings and murders in our city are gang-affiliated, and young men and women of color often end up in the cross hairs of these warring groups,” Wills said during the Dec. 16 hearing. “The Community Violence Prevention Act would enable an independent body of experts to review the city’s efforts to promote upward mobility in communities afflicted by violence, and design a comprehensive strategy that would deliver more direct and immediate benefits to our disadvantaged.”

The commission would identify the neighborhoods where the highest rates of violent criminal acts occur, evaluate the city’s efforts to address the socio-economic conditions that ultimately lead to such acts of violence, and develop a yearly plan designed to augment those efforts by viewing violent crimes as a public health crisis.

Every year, the commission would be required to report on its activities to the mayor and the Council, and offer an assessment of the city’s effort to implement the plan. The summary of the plan would be publicized online and subject to comment.

“The speaker of the House has refused to allow Congress to vote on ending the ban on researching gun violence as a public health crisis, through the Center for Disease Control. It is stunning that just weeks after yet another mass shooting—in San Bernardino—that he would not want to use every tool possible to get to the root of this crisis,” Williams said.

Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Hollis) support the bill.

Despite overall low crime rates, in November during the 103rd Precinct Community Council monthly meeting, Executive Officer James Fey said that due to two homicides in the area, residents in Jamaica would see an increase in uniforms on the streets and patrol cars.

“The senseless acts of violence that used to occur in areas within (my) district have considerably lessened. In fact, one target area of the city’s Gun-Violence Crisis Management System has achieved more than 365 days without gun violence,” Wills said. “The CVPA will serve to build on the success of the Cure Violence model by enhancing the delivery of needed services.”

A spokesman from Wills’ office said the benefits of the city’s historically low crime rate are not enjoyed by every citizen. Many residents living in less affluent communities of color are vulnerable to gun-violence that is often perpetrated by local gangs. These crimes are ultimately driven by various socio-economic inequities that have yet to be adequately addressed.

The CVPA is designed to assess and augment the city’s efforts to resolve these outstanding issues, and develop a comprehensive plan to create opportunities that would empower these youths to choose a productive way of life, free from such destructive acts of violence.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.