Letter to State Leadership to Increase Investments in Proven Non-Police Response to Gun violence

March 30, 2022

The Honorable Kathy Hochul
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Hon. Andrea Stewart-Cousins
New York State Senate Majority Leader
188 State Street
Legislative Office Building, Room 907
Albany, NY 12247

Hon. Carl Heastie
New York State Assembly Speaker
LOB 932
Albany, NY 12248

Re: Urgent and Necessary Increases in New York State Investments in Proven
Non-Police Responses to Gun Violence

Dear Governor Hochul, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie:

In recognition of the seriousness of the gun violence crisis and to provide a
direct and immediate response to incidents of gun violence in our communities,
we call on the State of New York to immediately invest $1 billion in
evidence-based solutions, including community violence intervention and
services for victims and survivors.

Gun violence is rising across the country—in big cities and rural communities, in red
states and blue ones, including in New York. Especially hard hit are Black
communities and other communities of color that have experienced decades of
government divestment. Our overreliance on police and the tools of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration has harmed communities—and hasn’t made us safer.

Unfortunately some have sought to exploit this crisis to further a mass incarceration
agenda, rather than to advance meaningful, evidence-based solutions to improve
community safety. More people in jail, rollbacks to bail reform and the adoption of racist and inaccurate predictive “dangerousness standards” or so-called risk assessment tools cannot be our response. That would be both morally wrong and ineffective.

Instead we should be dedicating resources to proven solutions at an
unprecedented level as well as identifying where additional acute needs exist and
developing a plan to fill those needs, including through new programming where
required. Community-based, non-police responses to gun violence are one critical and proven component to reducing violence, but historically have not been funded at levels sufficient to meet the task at hand.

Community violence intervention (CVI) is a term that describes an array of programs
and strategies working to reduce homicides and shootings through community-led
interventions, including the employment of “violence interrupters” or “neighborhood
change agents” who are skilled in intervention and who reach out to those at the center of gun violence, build relationships, and work to support healing and to address conflict through nonviolent means, including de-escalation and mediation. In their best form, these programs also provide supportive services, such as legal, housing and employment assistance and operate outside of coordination with the police. There are many examples of effective community based organizations responding to gun violence throughout New York State.

Evidence-based support services for victims and survivors (including but not limited to emergency safety planning; services addressing basic needs such as housing, childcare, food and clothing; trauma and grief counseling; and restorative justice programming) are also an important element in responding to and preventing violence, and helping people heal when it does occur. Research shows that people who are harmed by violence may be more likely to engage in violence than others. Programming that recognizes the complex nature of violence, and that uses proven, person-centered approaches to treat the harm and trauma caused by violence can therefore help reduce the likelihood of future violence.

But, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, only 8% of people who
experienced violent victimization in 2019 reported receiving formal victim services.
Limited research suggests a number of explanations including: lack of awareness that
services exist; onerous law enforcement reporting requirements; services not being
geographically or linguistically accessible; lack of culturally competent services; and
survivors not believing that services are targeted to them or that they are unwelcome to access such services because they themselves have caused harm.

Many survivors are also unwilling to access services because they believe they will be
required to cooperate with law enforcement. This is especially true within certain
marginalized communities – including BIPOC, LGBTQ, immigrant, and domestic
violence survivors – that have had negative experiences with law enforcement or may
be concerned about the consequences of cooperating on themselves or their loved
ones. This reality demands the inclusion of funding for new programming that operates outside of entanglements with law enforcement.

Historically in New York State, public safety budgets have been dominated by funding
for police, courts, jails and prisons with a tiny fraction dedicated to community-based programming despite their proven success and future promise. As we seek solutions to respond immediately to incidents of gun violence we must not go backwards towards further investments in policing and incarceration, but instead must move forward towards short-, medium- and long-term community-based investments, particularly in those communities that have long been starved of resources.

Today the undersigned groups make the following recommendations for the
2022-2023 budget:

1) $500 million explicitly directed to non-police, non-prosecutor community-based gun violence intervention programs statewide that are permitted to work independently of law enforcement. This funding should go toward existing, successful programs and also to support the development of new programming in geographic areas where none currently exists.

2) $500 million to support survivor programming that is community-based, readily available, and responsive to the needs of survivors. This funding should include support to successful current programs and must include the development of new programs that are permitted to work independently of the criminal legal system, particularly those targeting communities and geographic areas where no services currently exist.

3) The establishment of a process led by directly impacted people to develop and fund a comprehensive plan to disrupt and eliminate cycles of violence focused on community-based, non-carceral investments that includes both identifying and funding immediate interventions through successful existing programs and developing new programming.

To see the full list of signers, please download the letter.

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