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Op-Ed | Keeping our communities safe: One young person at a time

Jul. 11, 2023 By Mayor Eric Adams

The old saying, ‘Prevention is better than cure’ is truer than ever today.  There are many problems that we face now, which—if we deal with them at the source—can be handled effectively and with less suffering.  Gun violence among our young people is one of them. Our administration’s historic $89 million investment in New York City’s Crisis Management System as well as landmark investments in our Summer Youth Employment Program and Summer Rising will give our young people a sense of purpose and keep them engaged and safe.  Our Crisis Management System is based on a widely recognized public health approach to addressing violent conflict and aims to change New Yorkers’ attitudes towards using violence in tense situations.  Taken together, our Crisis Management System and the summer programs will provide our young people with the opportunities and skills they need to build a better future and help prevent gun violence before it arises.

These efforts will build on our success in preventing crime: shootings have declined by 24% in the first six months of 2023, and more generally, crime has fallen in five of the seven major categories during the first six months of the year compared to the same period in 2022. We will continue to bring crime down and keep New York the safest large city in the nation.

Our Crisis Management System deploys local residents, “violence interrupters,” and community leaders to mediate disputes and connect young people aged 16 to 24 most at risk of gun violence to mentorship.  Violence interrupters are often people with a history of violent behavior who have succeeded in turning their own lives around.  They are well positioned to defuse tensions before they become dangerous, and can connect high-risk individuals to mental health services, job training, employment opportunities, and more, giving young people a sense of purpose and decreasing the risk of violence.  Our CMS teams will operate in 31 neighborhoods that account for more than two-thirds of shooting incidents citywide.

We’re also getting more of our young people on the right track with summer enrichment and employment programs that will keep them challenged and engaged so that we reduce the need for these kinds of interventions later on.  Our Summer Rising Program serves 110,00 young people in grades K-8.  The program, which runs for 6 to 7 weeks starting on July 5th, will help students close the COVID learning gap and allow them to enjoy a fun summer in a secure and supervised environment.  It allows our parents and caregivers to work without worrying about how their children will stay occupied. Our Summer Youth Employment Program will reach 100,000 youth this summer; it provides paid opportunities in a variety of fields including business, tech, and healthcare. 

Gun violence doesn’t take place in a vacuum.  It occurs when young people lack a sense of purpose and turn to violence or other antisocial behavior instead.  With the right social-emotional skills, and with paid and engaging internship opportunities, our at risk-youth can turn their lives around.  I should know.  When I was a young man, I got into trouble with law and now, I’m mayor of New York City. 

I want all our young people to have the same second chance that I did, and for New York to remain a safe and a thriving beacon for all.

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