The New York City neighborhoods with the highest number of shootings also suffer from higher than average unemployment rates, a greater incidence of mental distress and excessive housing costs relative to income, according to a new report Public Advocate Jumaane Williams plans to unveil on Thursday.
The report, which the Daily News obtained a copy of and which Williams has dubbed Reimagining Gun Violence Prevention and Public Safety for New York City, calls on city, state and federal officials to “redefine public safety beyond simply law enforcement.”
To make the case, Williams relies on maps to show how large swaths of the Bronx and Brooklyn neighborhoods like East New York and Brownsville face not only a higher than average number of shootings per capita, but other social ills that contribute to cycles of violence continuing.
Williams, a former Brooklyn City Council member, contends that draconian drug and tough-on-crime laws from the 80′s and 90′s, which led to mass incarceration, also contributed to that cycle, and said that while police should still have a significant role in addressing violence, they should no longer be viewed as the only solution given the fact that the same problems have persisted in the same neighborhoods for decades.
“The places that are dealing with the most violence are the places that are dealing with the highest risk and death from COVID, highest unemployment, highest mental distress calls, highest cost of housing, the highest school absences. All of those things together encompass a problem that’s actually fixable if we want to invest in it,” he said. “I also want to make clear that none of these things are excuses to allow people to shoot up a block.”
Williams recommends that the city embrace programs that have shown promise in other cities — like Newark’s efforts to restructure its public safety apparatus and diversify its police department, or Los Angeles’ anti-gang, youth development initiative.
“It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but we can do it. Because of the difficulties of it, we often resort to the infrastructure that’s already there, which is our law enforcement and our jails,” he said. “We have to try to reset our muscle memory to do the things that actually are going to work.”