NYC mayor touts new anti-violence measures and 'violence interrupter' program

The city will increase the number of police on more than 20 streets and city housing projects and organize 'neighborhood walks' with community leaders


By Michael Gartland
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Mayor de Blasio unveiled new measures to stop the rising tide of gun violence in the city Friday, including an increased police presence in certain areas and getting clergy and community groups more involved in mediating disputes.

The city will increase the number of police on more than 20 streets and city housing projects as part of the plan and will organize “neighborhood walks” with community leaders and cops to show “common cause.”

While the New York City Mayor and New York City Council agreed to divert $1billion from the NYPD budget, de Blasio has now announced an increased police presence to address rising crime. (Photo/mpi43/MediaPunch/IPX)
While the New York City Mayor and New York City Council agreed to divert $1billion from the NYPD budget, de Blasio has now announced an increased police presence to address rising crime. (Photo/mpi43/MediaPunch/IPX)

“We cannot have people live in fear. We cannot have young people in the crosshairs. It’s not something we will allow in this city,” de Blasio said at a press briefing Friday. “We have to do better.”

De Blasio put specific emphasis on measures being implemented in Harlem, where construction worker Kenneth Brown was killed in a hail of bullets Wednesday.

As of July 5, there have been 33 shootings in Manhattan North, which includes all of Harlem, as well as Inwood, Washington Heights, the Upper East and Upper West sides, as well as parts of Midtown. During the same month in 2019, there were 11 shootings, a 200% increase.

Accompanying the mayor at his Friday press briefing was New York Sen. Brian Benjamin, representing Harlem and Iesha Sekou, head of Street Corner Resources, a non-profit violence interrupter program.

Sekou said one of the keys to her work is to de-escalate tense situations between rivals, but she raised hackles among city lawmakers after raising one scenario in which interrupters might physically remove someone from a dispute.

“Sometimes you have to grab a kid up once in a while and put him in the van and just say, ‘Look, you’re not getting out until we bring this down,’” she said.

City Council members Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) and Bob Holden (D-Queens) both slammed Sekou for the statement, saying it highlights precisely what’s wrong with the mayor’s new approach to law enforcement.

“Obviously, they’re not peace officers. They can’t forcibly hold someone against their will,” Borelli said. “I understand it may go against their kumbaya mentality, but we need the police for that.”

Holden described such an approach as “totally absurd” and worries someone could get hurt in a scenario like the one Sekou described.

“Have you ever tried to approach a New Yorker who throws some litter out of their car? It escalates,” he said. “Somebody’s going to get shot in the head. These are gang members.”

De Blasio praised Sekou for her remarks, calling them “profound truths.” He acknowledged that Sekou and others like her are putting themselves in “harm’s way” and “put their lives on the line” with the work they do.

But the implications of that remain unclear if someone were to get hurt. The mayor’s press office and the city Law Department did immediately respond to questions about what exactly violence interrupters are empowered to do, whether they’re required to follow any specific safety protocols and what the liability implications are for the city.

The mayor described the approach as a step away from an “occupying army mindset” on how to deal with violence, presumably a reference to the NYPD. The mayor’s press office also did not immediately respond to a request to further elaborate on that remark.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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