Program Aims to Stop Shooting Surge

By Folashade Olatunde

Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) launched a Heal-the-Violence program November 2. The $720,000 pilot program will support anti-violence training and help young people develop healing prevention-based responses across 20 NYCHA campuses.

“Young people living in underserved and under-resourced public housing communities are especially impacted by traumatic violence, and this program is designed to center their voices in finding meaningful solutions for creating safer neighborhoods,” said NYCHA EVP for Community Engagement and Partnerships Sideya Sherman and Executive Director for the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity. “Heal-the-Violence is one of several long-term strategies that will support community health, security, and opportunity at NYCHA campuses.”

The goal is to invest in neighborhoods that need the most help to decrease the violence and heal communities. The program will engage youth with healing circles, asset mapping, and conflict mediation. The plan will double summer youth employment, hiring 800-2,000 anti–violence staff. It will double Cure Violence workforce across 31 sites. Saturday Night Light games will be held at 100 sites citywide and anti-violence fairs will be held in 30 neighborhoods across the city. The plan includes funds to completely refurbish 15 basketball courts at NYCHA developments by August 2022, and well as four basketball courts and a new soccer pitch at Colonel Charles Young Park in Harlem by July 2022.

“A recovery for all of us is rooted in public safety, and one central way to keep our city safe is by uplifting our young people,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “NYCHA’s innovative Heal-the-Violence program will reach young people where they are and create a safer future for our neighborhoods.”

Heal-the-Violence will target young people ages 14-24. Those selected to participate in the program must live at one of the participating NYCHA campuses across the five boroughs and are eligible to receive up to $150 for their participation, with designated youth leaders eligible for $300. The program follows the large-scale renovation of more than a dozen basketball courts at NYCHA campuses earlier this year, and the roll-out of a youth basketball league organized in partnership with the New York Knicks and NYPD that concluded this past month.

The Heal-the-Violence program focuses on neighborhoods experiencing an uptick in violence. It aims to prevent gun violence by targeting gangs and crews with a focus on the 100 blocks with the highest rates of gun violence. The NYPD will enhance patrol strength by shifting approximately 200 officers from administrative assignments to key areas, it will launch a gun buyback advertising campaign, and re-launch Ceasefire, a program that delivers powerful messages to high-risk populations with the goal of decreasing violence without increasing arrests and incarceration. Also, the plan will work with the courts to expand in-person operations and create enhanced services and supervision for pretrial defendants for gun possession cases.

“My strategy as district attorney has always been to focus our resources on the drivers of crime, which are the small number of individuals who are responsible for the shootings and killings on our streets,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “Those are exactly the cases that will be prioritized to go to trial under this initiative – people who we believe have demonstrated a willingness to harm others, and who continue to pose an active risk to public safety. Gonzalez said the initiative, coupled with his office’s efforts to reduce the availability of guns, will help reverse the recent rise in shootings.

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