Cuomo declares state of emergency over gun violence

Posted 6 July 2021 at 3:43 pm

Announces $138.7 million for intervention, prevention and jobs programs to engage at-risk youth

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today declared the first-in-the-nation gun violence disaster emergency as part of a new, comprehensive strategy to build a safer New York.

This new strategy treats gun violence as a public health crisis, using short-term solutions to manage the immediate gun violence crisis and reduce the shooting rate, as well as long-term solutions that focus on community-based intervention and prevention strategies to break the cycle of violence. The disaster emergency allows the State to expedite money and resources to communities so they can begin targeting gun violence immediately.

To coordinate this nation-leading gun violence prevention effort, the Governor announced the creation of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention. The Governor also required by Executive Order major police departments to share incident-level data on gun violence with DCJS to compile this data weekly. This data will be used by the new Office of Gun Violence Prevention to track emerging gun violence hotspots and deploy resources to those areas that need it most.

“More people are now dying from gun violence and crime than Covid – this is a national problem but someone has to step up and address this problem because our future depends on it,” Cuomo said. “Just like we did with Covid, New York is going to lead the nation once again with a comprehensive approach to combating and preventing gun violence, and our first step is acknowledging the problem with a first-in-the-nation disaster emergency on gun violence.”

This comprehensive strategy also includes a $138.7 million investment in intervention and prevention programs, including programs that engage at-risk youth in summer job opportunities and community activity programs to get young people off the streets, and supports ongoing gun violence prevention programs.

The Governor also announced the creation of a new State Police Gun Trafficking Interdiction Unit to stop the flood of illegal guns that come into New York from states with weak gun safety laws. Additionally, the State will continue to strengthen police-community relations through a partnership with John Jay College of Criminal Justice to help localities implement and assess the reform plans they developed through the landmark New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative.

Deploying a public health approach to gun violence

The new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will be overseen by the New York State Department of Health and led by a Governor-appointed Gun Violence Prevention Coordinator who will coordinate an all-of-government approach to ensure that state and local programs are advancing unified gun violence prevention strategies.

The office will include a task force of representatives from State agencies including the Offices of Mental Health, Children and Family Services, Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Victim Services, the Departments of Labor, Housing, Health, Corrections and Community Supervision, as well as Empire State Development, the State Police, Division of Budget, and others.

The Governor will also invite stakeholders to participate in a new Governor’s Council on Gun Violence Reduction to ensure coordination between the State, localities and community groups to address local needs. The Council will review current laws and local proposals for reform and will make recommendations for changes based on science and data.

Targeting “Hot Spots” using science and data

As outlined in the Governor’s Executive Order, police departments from across the state will be polled weekly by Division of Criminal Justice Services for incident-level data on shootings so the new Office of Gun Violence Prevention can identify and track emerging hotspots and direct resources where needed.

As with Covid, the State will use a cluster-based strategy to contain and combat the epidemic and identify gun violence hot spots where clusters of shootings are driven by small numbers of people. Initial hot spots identified in New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, and Long Island include just 4,090 young men aged 18-24 but account for 48.5 percent of recent gun violence in those communities. View maps here.

Investing over $76 million to create job opportunities and community activities for youth

The spike in gun violence began as Covid kept many young people out of school and work, and disruptions to social supports and services left at-risk youth without safe, productive places to go during the day. These disruptions have had a destabilizing impact, particularly on young people, leading to a rise in gun violence. Research has shown that summer job programs decrease the likelihood of involvement in violence by 45 percent.

To help get young people off the streets, the State will invest an unprecedented $76 million to create jobs and community activities for at-risk youth.

New York will fund over 21,000 jobs for youth this summer, with initial commitments to create jobs by UFT, 32BJ, the MTA, the Partnership for NYC, tech:NYC, the NYC Hospitality Alliance, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Queens Chamber of Commerce and Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and the New York State Parks. Businesses are encouraged to make jobs available on the State’s website. Salaries for these job opportunities will be paid for by the State.

The State will also partner with the Consortium for Worker Education, the workforce development arm of the NYC Central Labor Council to provide new job training, training stipends, credentialing and placement in good-paying, long-term jobs for 2,400 young people who are out of school and live in the neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence.

In addition, the State will increase the funding available for sports, arts and recreational facilities for this summer. Prioritization for the additional funding will be given to programs within identified hot spot communities.

More than doubling state investments in violence intervention programs

Violence intervention programs, which work with impacted communities to break the cycle of gun violence and retaliations, have been shown to reduce violence by as much as 60 percent. The Gifford’s Law Center has pointed to New York State’s program at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx as a best-in-class model.

The State will create a new hospital-based violence intervention program in hotspot communities, expanding the state’s Jacobi model where it is most needed. Hospital-based violence intervention programs have proven to be a successful model by enabling street outreach workers to respond to shooting victims directly, connect victims and their families to wrap-around support services, and deescalate conflicts and retaliation.

The State will also expand the successful SNUG Street Outreach Programs by almost 50 percent. The SNUG Street Outreach program is administered by the Division of Criminal Justice Services and utilizes credible messengers in the community to engage and mentor at-risk youth, host community events, work to steer young people away from gun violence, and respond to shootings to prevent retaliatory violence. Through the almost doubling of this program, the State is taking aggressive action to curb gun violence in the hardest hit communities.

Getting illegal guns off the streets

While New York State has the strongest gun safety laws in the country, 74% of crime guns used in criminal activity across the state were purchased out of state. To combat the flow of illegal guns onto New York streets, the State will create a new Gun Trafficking Interdiction Unit within the New York State Police. New York State will also work with other states in the region to share gun tracing data that can stop inter-state gun traffickers and straw purchasers from introducing illegal guns into New York communities.

Strengthening the police-community relationship

Data shows that when community trust for the police is low, 911 calls and regular patrols decrease while gun violence and crimes rates increase. To build on the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative that was established in June 2020 and requires police departments to create plans for reform at the local level, the State is announcing a new partnership with John Jay College of Criminal Justice to help select police departments that have implementation strategies for their plans and to develop standards for measuring progress.

The Governor is also directing the Division of Criminal Justice Services to issue new regulations implementing a law signed by the Governor this year that strengthens hiring and background investigations standards for police officers and closes the police officer misconduct loophole by preventing officers who commit serious or criminal misconduct from serving as officers in another police department.