Even before the horrendous shootings that occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT in December of last year, the New York City Council created a Task Force to Combat Gun Violence. The idea was to collect information, analyze it and put together a report that could be used to help end the wave of gun violence that is destroying lives and communities.
The New York City-based Task Force on Violence reports that although the murder rate in NYC has declined significantly from the 1900’s through today.
Over 300 children and adults were killed in New York City by a bullet, and over a thousand more New York City residents shot and wounded each year.
Gun violence has claimed the lives of over 30,000 people in the United States each year since 2006.
A pie chart of the causes of murder in New York City shows that gang violence and drugs were not the biggest reasons most people were killed in 2011, despite the misconception that drugs and gangs play the largest roles in murders. According to the New York Police Department, the causes for murder were:
Disputes/Revenge – 37%
Domestic – 18%
Unknown – 15%
Drugs – 12%
Robbery/Burglary – 9%
Gangs – 5%
In its report, the Task Force discussed the following as measures to reduce gun violence:
Shooting Incident Crisis Management System: The crisis management system brings together all agencies involved in an emergency and focuses on the four stages of a crisis: Response, Recovery, Mitigation, and Preparedness. The goal is to provide a swift, coordinated response to the immediate crises, while minimizing the impacts of future events through prevention and preparedness. Modeling this approach, the Task Force recommends creating a Shooting Incident Crisis Management System in New York City with programs that target each stage of the cycle.
Pilot Neighborhoods: The Task Force recommends that the Crisis Management System be piloted in one neighborhood in each borough. If this model proves successful, it should be replicated in other high gun violence neighborhoods.
CureViolence Program: The Task Force recommends that the CureViolence (formerly known as CeaseFire Chicago) program be implemented in each of the five target neighborhoods in New York City. The CureViolence program has been implemented in a number of cities across the country, including a few sites in New York City funded by the Governor, NYS Senate, NYC Department of Health, and the Mayor's Young Men's Initiative. The National Conference of Mayors has also affirmed its support for the program11. Academic studies on its effectiveness have shown varying results, with successful programs seeing shooting incidents decrease between 16-34% following implementation12. Findings indicated that inconsistent funding or unsatisfactory hiring practices created less successful programs. The CureViolence program uses a public health approach in dealing with gun violence.
The program is based on the premise that gun violence can be compared to a communicable disease – that if it is not treated, it will spread, and the best way of fighting it is to focus on those most at risk.
Mental Health: The Task Force also recommends that mental health services be made available in the target neighborhoods. These services can provide critical supports for prevention, as well as in the response and recovery from an incident.
Legal Services: The Task Force recommends that legal support be available in each of the target neighborhoods. The legal support will help at-risk youth and their families navigate different issues.
Job Readiness and Training: The Task Force recommends that job readiness and training programs be made available to at-risk youth.
School-Based Conflict Mediation: Many interactions that can escalate to gun violence involve youth attending our schools. Unfortunately, many students do not know how to respond to and deescalate conflicts. Therefore, a program that can mediate individual conflicts in school and teach students strategies for diffusing conflicts in future situations will help mitigate and prevent gun violence overall.
Inter-Agency Coordination: The Task Force recommends that the City play a greater role in mitigation of further violence. There should be monthly meetings hosted by city government and attended by CureViolence program managers, non-profit service providers involved in community building and violence prevention, and city agencies. The meetings will involve ongoing tracking, planning and coordination of services. These meetings should review the latest data and gun incident cases and discuss ways that strategies in the affected communities could be improved.
Peacekeepers: The Task Force recommends that community-based agencies enlist and train volunteers to donate time to be present on the streets to help prevent violence. Adults can volunteer to prevent violence during school opening and dismissal times as well as during situations where large crowds are present.
Information Distribution: The Task Force believes that a there is a general lack of knowledge about the existence and availability of programs and services in many communities. As a result, the Task Force recommends that information packets that list the services that are available in the neighborhood, including the location of those services, should be developed and made widely available.