Ending the Gun Violence Crisis and Tackling Crime
Gun violence is an epidemic. New York City can’t afford to keep taking a passive and outdated approach to the problem. Gun violence is the leading cause of death of young people, disproportionately impacting communities of color across the five boroughs. There have been far too many casualties of this crisis -- in 2021 alone, 299 people have been shot, a 54% increase over the same time last year, and the most the city has seen since 2012 -- and it’s time to put an end to it.
Crime was at an all-time low before the pandemic. Getting back there will not happen just by vaccinating New Yorkers and reaching herd immunity. It may be convenient for City Hall and the NYPD to excuse soaring shootings as an outgrowth of a pandemic, but those excuses mean nothing to the people who have lost their lives, their families, and communities now living in fear.
Restoring Trust, Reducing Crime
Andrew Yang’s Blueprint to Cut Violent Crime and Improve Public Safety in NYC
New York City ended 2020 with a 97% rise in shootings and a 45% increase in murder. A preliminary assessment of crime in 2021 only points to a continuation of this trend. The NYPD and District Attorneys, and violence interrupters are all bracing for a sharp rise in gun violence as summer approaches. The time for action is now. A Yang Administration will champion the following steps:
- Temporarily reassign experienced, reform-minded NYPD officers to precincts where gun violence is rising or has already reached crisis levels: The neighborhoods where crime is on the rise are in need of more experienced officers who are ready to address crime, building relationships with community members and community-based providers on the ground to address the crisis. Increased police presence is not a permanent solution, but it is an important piece of the puzzle. A Yang administration will develop 21st century strategies, coupled with added police capacity to the Gun Violence Suppression Division and Violence Reduction Task Forces of the NYPD, to fight the troubling rise of crime.
- Create a new Anti-Violence and Community Safety Unit staffed with the most experienced, vetted, and well-trained officers to get guns off the streets. Getting guns off the street requires policing skills developed over years of hard-earned experience. In a Yang administration, the NYPD will recruit law enforcement professionals with relevant experience, clean disciplinary records, and highly specialized training in both community engagement and harm reduction into a newly created Anti-Violence Unit dedicated to removing guns from the most violent precincts. Previous efforts, such as the Anti-Crime Unit, too often failed to recruit the right officers, provide the right training, or to deploy teams to only those neighborhoods in greatest need of specialized policing. Officers deployed in the Anti-Violence Unit will need to be vetted and approved by the new Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and their teams will be expected to both reduce crime and increase trust in the communities they serve. The two are not mutually exclusive.
- Immediately reopen courts to address illegal gun possession and gun crimes: Despite the pandemic, the police arrested more people for gun possession in 2020 than in the previous year, but many were released because their cases could not be presented to a grand jury within six days, the statutory limit for holding people in custody without an indictment. The slower court responses resulted in a backlog in December 2020 of about 800 gun cases which were waiting to be presented to grand juries. Andrew Yang is calling on New York City to immediately reopen courts to keep those who are illegally holding or firing a gun off of our streets. Additionally, a Yang administration will ensure swift equitable justice on all sides for victims and perpetrators.
- Invest in early intervention, expanded youth referrals and a citywide scaling of hyper-local and proven effective violence prevention programs, expanding research into the Brownsville pilot: Countless organizations are at the forefront of addressing gun violence, and continue to need more resources to address the root causes of violence in communities - disputes between rival gangs, poverty and a lack of options for young people. A pilot program in the 73rd Precinct is engaging NYPD neighborhood coordination officers and youth coordination officers with organizations that can intervene when young people are in crisis, or at the brink of crisis. Some of these organizations are funded through New York City’s Cure Violence program, but many are operating on shoestring budgets. An experimental effort in Brownsville to flood the community with resources in place of the NYPD was cited as successful, including by Chief of Patrol, Juanita Holmes. Andrew Yang is calling for more research into pilot programs like it to determine if they can produce sustainable results in Brownsville and other parts of the city.
- Break the iron pipeline into New York City: While New York State has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country, there are tens of thousands of illegal guns that flow into New York City, largely from other states across the Eastern seaboard. A 2016 study found that 87% of the 25,799 recovered firearms in New York City were sourced out of state, and almost 90% came from six states along I95: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia. The US Department of Justice’s Firearms Tracing System’s 2019 report found that among the 4,978 guns found at NY crime scenes, 79% were from out-of-state. Andrew Yang will create an East Coast Gun Trafficking Intelligence Division within the NYPD, bolstering efforts at the state and local level, to end the illegal trafficking of guns, coordinating efforts at points of entry into New York City and distribution on New York City streets.
- Prevent and respond to the rise in hate crimes: Hate crimes have become an epidemic in New York City. Whether the rise in anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-semitic crimes in recent years, or the sharp rise in anti-Asian crimes since the pandemic, the NYPD can’t wait for the problem to happen before acting. The NYPD must start targeting prevention efforts where misinformation and disinformation is spreading, proactively protecting houses of worship and neighborhoods that police intelligence determines to be at risk of heightened violence, encouraging communities to report hate violence without the fear of retribution, and engaging in full, aggressive policing to arrest those who commit or conspire to commit acts of violence.
- Work with New York State to ensure that funds from the Community Violence Intervention Act reach New York City: Thanks to the advocacy of the state legislature, the Community Violence Intervention Act of 2021 was passed. This legislation declares gun violence a public health crisis and commits $10 million for community and hospital-based violence intervention programs. Andrew Yang will fight to ensure that these resources come into the communities in New York City that are hardest hit by gun violence.
- Create new 24 hour, community-led Emergency Response Units (ERUs) in every borough that respond as soon as someone is arrested for a gun crime. NYPD cannot reduce crime by itself -- clergy and community leaders play an essential role in building trust and de-escalating threats both before and after they arise. However, these interventions are often ad hoc and vary widely from precinct to precinct. A Yang administration will create and fund permanent community-led trauma response teams that will deploy to the homes of New Yorkers arrested for gun violence—immediately upon booking—to determine social service needs and interventions that may reduce the likelihood of additional criminal activity.
- Release funding for Cure Violence and anti-violence organizations now, well before the new fiscal year: Mayor De Blasio just committed to adding resources to New York City’s Cure Violence program, an evidenced-based national effort that started from grassroots organizations to hire and engage people with former gang experience to intervene in community disputes well before violence takes place. Rather than waiting until July 1 and watching the body count rise, Andrew Yang is calling for the Mayor to release resources immediately to support organizations on the ground to intervene in the anticipated rise in gun violence this summer, well before it happens. These resources must also be expanded to organizations that lean on the Cure Violence model, but are promising for violence reduction at the local level.
- Fully resource New York City’s Crisis Management System (CMS) before Summer 2021: CMS deploys teams of credible messengers and wraparound service providers who mediate conflicts on the street and connect high-risk individuals to services that can reduce the long-term risk of violence. In addition to resources for Cure Violence organizations, the Administration and City Council must continue to scale investment in CMS in anticipation of the summer. From 2010-2019, there was a 40% reduction in shootings in neighborhoods in the 17 highest violence precincts in New York City. When fully resourced, CMS works, and anti-violence organizations who do business with the City to serve communities must receive resources well before they are asked to take on the enormous responsibility of this work during the summer months.
- A new warning system for low-level offenses: When officers are patrolling the streets, we often hear that they handle many situations but if they are not issuing summonses or making an arrest, there is usually no documentation of what has happened. A Yang Administration will create a new warning system for small violations that police are encountering, with the intention of using data to help make better decisions. We will ask officers to give an official documented warning in these cases so the NYPD can begin to establish a track record of community members who are in need, use this data to intervene early, and when we establish patterns, will connect people with services.
Federal Calls to Action
- Pass the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021: Introduced by Representatives Clyburn (D-SC) and Nadler (D-NY), the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 (H.R. 1446) closes the “Charleston loophole,” which allowed the gunman in the horrific 2015 mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Charleston, S.C., to acquire a gun before the FBI could complete a background check. This bill would provide the background check system with additional time to make a final determination on a potential firearms purchaser before a licensed dealer can transfer a gun. H.R. 1446 extends the initial background check review period from three to 10 business days, allowing the purchaser to file a petition thereafter to certify that they are not prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm. H.R. 1446 passed in the House of Representatives 219-210 on March 11, 2021 - we must take action in the Senate to take this bill up immediately.
- Pass the Bipartisan Background Check Act: The Bipartisan Background Check Act (H.R. 8) expands the cases in which a background check on individuals seeking to purchase or transfer firearms is required, closing what’s known as the "Gun Show Loophole." The requirements would apply to online sales and would make it illegal for anyone who is not a licensed firearm importer, manufacturer or dealer to trade or sell firearms to another person; current federal law requires background checks only for licensed gun dealers. H.R. 8 passed in the US House of Representatives 227 - 203 on March 11, 2021 and must advance to the US Senate.
- Pass the Assault Weapons Ban once and for all: After deadly mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia and Boulder, Colorado this year, President Biden has called on Congress to pass the Assault Weapons Ban. Whether through Executive Action or the passage of S. 736, we must end the sale of violent assault weapons across the country.