City expands violence interrupter program to southeast Queens

The city will expand its violence interrupter program to southeast Queens after an uptick in gun violence. (File photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

Southeast Queens elected officials and community leaders are welcoming the city’s plan for an expansion of its violence interrupter network into the 105th Precinct in Queens Village.

The expansion of the program aims to address the public safety concerns in the Laurelton, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens neighborhoods by utilizing messengers to mediate conflict on the street and connect high-risk individuals to services that can reduce the long-term risk of violence.

Two new groups will join the Crisis Management System network of violence interrupters to work in the precinct, King of Kings and 100 Suits for 100 Men. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the expansion and a $1.1 million investment that aims to be fully staffed and in place by the end of June.

“Expanding the Crisis Management System into my district is a necessary investment as we seek ways to combat the surge in gun violence with an increase in access and reach to much-needed social services,” Councilwoman Selvena Powers-Brooks said. “I am particularly excited to be working with the King of Kings Foundation and 100 Suits for 100 Men, who have necessary experience and expertise needed to be able to take on this work, as well as the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, to create safety across the different neighborhoods in my district.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards represented the district on the City Council and celebrated the program coming to the precinct.

“The 105th Precinct has one of the largest geographic areas to cover, with nearly 13 square miles and 354 miles of roadway,” Richards said. “It is extremely difficult to maintain the peace in our communities, and many are overwhelmed. Cure Violence expansion into the 105th Precinct is a welcome resource eastern Queens needs, and we need to do everything we can to stop gun violence and invest in our neighborhoods while keeping them safe.”

The introduction of violence interrupters comes amid an ongoing spike in gun violence across the city. Shooting incidents citywide are up more than 50 percent compared to the same time last year, with the 105th Precinct seeing double the number of incidents year-to-date, from two in 2020 to four in 2021.

“Effective strategies for protecting our communities must be multifaceted and we fully support expansion of the city’s violence interrupter network, which has proven effective in reducing crime and violence,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “The safest borough is one where we work with our young people to make sure they never become part of the criminal justice system. The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice has taken the important step to stop gun violence and end the cycle of grief in our neighborhoods.”

Since 2010, the Crisis Management System has worked in neighborhoods across the city that have historically faced high levels of gun violence. Backed by a nearly $40 million investment by the de Blasio administration and the City Council, CMS is operated in a partnership with a network of nonprofit providers, now in 22 precincts.

“We’re investing in two groups that are known and respected in the community that have a connection to the grassroots and can make a difference,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “King of Kings and 100 Suits for 100 Men, two extraordinary community organizations that are going to take what works in the Cure Violence Movement and the Crisis Management System and apply it in southeast Queens, and keep the community safe, and help young people on the right path, and help stop the violence.”

“We live here, and we are committed to doing better, by helping to build a safer, closer community,” King of Kings Foundation Founder and Executive Director Lance Feurtado said.

The mayor said the program will bring people together at the grassroots to fight gun violence.

“We look forward to creating a safe space for youth in the community surrounded by love and continued support,” 100 Suits for 100 Men Founder and President Ken Livingston said.