Mayor Adams: Read. Read the plan. My plan cannot be defined on a tweet, it's defined by picking up the document and reading it.
Brian: It's The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC. Good morning, everyone. There was Mayor Adams asking all New Yorkers to read his 15-page Blueprint to End Gun Violence. Now, we wrap up our reading project where we've been inviting you to do just that. We will take your calls and read your tweets with your question and comments about what you've seen in the blueprint, both the intervention and prevention parts of ending gun violence at 212-433-WNYC, 433-9692, or post a tweet with a #ReadTheBlueprint.
For our part, we will parse the blueprint with you. The parts that are controversial among Republicans, the parts that are controversial among Democrats, the many parts that have a broad consensus, if they can find the money. The mayor announces budget proposals yesterday will relate the two. We know there are controversies like bail reform and lowering the age for some teenagers to be charged as adult for gun possession and the new anti-gun units, not in full uniform, and random screening for guns on passengers arriving at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
There are points of pretty broad consensus, like more summer jobs for young New Yorkers, scaling up the community-based violence intervention programs, and expanding mental health services. Does the balance look like it will actually reduce gun violence? Does it look like it will avoid new rounds of mass incarceration and police abuse?
We have three guests with different kinds of opinions and expertise who have read the blueprint to compare notes as we take your calls and tweets, Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, a think tank that says it was founded in 1978, the bad old days, by concern members of the business community to develop ideas that address crime and protect the economic and social viability of New York City.
Anthonine Pierre, leader of Communities United for Police Reform, which describes itself as a campaign to end discriminatory and abuse of policing and promote public safety relying less on the police. Anthonine Pierre is also executive director of the Brooklyn Movement Center, a community organizing group based in Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights. Elise White, deputy research director at the Center for Court Innovation, which says it works to create a fair, effective and humane justice system by performing original research and helping launch reforms around the world. Elise, Richard, and Anthonine, thanks so much for coming on together for this. Welcome to WNYC today.
Richard: Thank you, Brian. Happy to be with you.
Brian: Again, listeners, if you read the Blueprint to End Gun Violence, call with your comments or questions at 212-433-WNYC or tweet with the #ReadTheBlueprint. As a premise, the blueprint says truly ending the crisis of gun violence will require both intervention and prevention. Let me go around the room and get each of your basic takes for about a minute a piece on how much you think the mayor gets the balance about right. Richard, I'll let you go first as I think the most supportive of the mayor's balance of proposals.
Richard: I think the mayor is pretty close to getting this right. I don't see these as a choice between intradicting and enforcing the law and prevention intervention. They need to all go side by side. We clearly have to get this gun crisis under control. Too many people are dying, but we do have to do it in a balanced way and we have to do it in a way where we also apply prevention techniques. If we do those in tandem and they are perfectly compatible with one another, in fact, we've been doing it for years in New York, then I think we can start getting ahead of this crisis.
Once we get the gun violence back down, we can start shifting more towards the intervention prevention space, which is where ultimately we should be. I think the mayor has got this right.
Brian: Anthonine, same question.
Anthonine: Yes, I think that where the blueprint really goes wrong is trying to juxtapose the solutions that advocates have been asking for like expanding SYP and the Fair Futures initiative.
Brian: SYP or Summer Youth Program, yes.
Anthonine: Great. Thank you. We do this alphabet soup and nonprofits sometimes. Where it really goes wrong is juxtaposing these really important reforms that we actually need to be incredibly widespread. We actually need to put resources into communities that are facing issues with gun violence because we know that gun violence is not just an isolated violence, it's happening in a context of structural violence. When you're giving us these solutions in small amounts, and then you're giving us these wide wholesale expansions of the NYPD scope, power, and influence in higher amounts, it really calls a question, what is the point?
Is the point just to expand policing and say that we're increasing resources because if we do really want to increase resources, then it's really clear that policing is not effective in driving down gun violence. I think if it had been, then we wouldn't be in this moment that we're in now.
Brian: Elise, same question. By the way, listeners, to Anthonine's point right there, later in the segment, we'll get to the mayor's budget proposal released yesterday for the next fiscal year and see if in his first budget blueprint, he puts his money where his mouth is on the End Gun Violence Blueprint on some of the non-policing, as well as policing aspects, but Elise, same question on how much you think he gets the balance about right on paper.
Elise: When I give my response, my response is going to be based on qualitative and quantitative interviews that myself and some of my colleagues have done with about 400 young people who are gun carriers or who have carried guns in the last four or five years. What we learned from them is that absolutely they're looking for employment opportunities, absolutely they need and seek out mental health care, and that credible messengers are very powerful mechanisms to connecting young people to these things.
I think on that front, the data that we have absolutely supports what the mayors put forward. Now, I think where our work diverges a little bit is that increased police presence, I can't speak and my data doesn't really talk to whether it's effective at driving down gun crime. What it does show us is that young people really respond, need, and crave de-escalation support, safe spaces, and methods of bringing the temperature down because the more that they feel surveilled, the more they feel at threat and at risk, the more they carry guns.
That risk can come from other young people who are gun carriers, but it also comes from the police. They're very clear on that. Police also are driving their gun-carrying behavior. I would also say that a lot of times what they'll talk about is yes, more police on the street, I think about it. I'm aware of it, but it's not necessarily a deterrent for me because I'd rather be in jail than dead. They're looking their gun-carrying behavior. We know this. It's driven by fear of their own deaths and the fear for their family members.
Those are real concerns that I don't think more employment opportunities and more mental health services really directly address.
Brian: Wow. What would?
Elise: Well, as Anthonine suggested, I think real robust programming on the ground embedded in communities because the conditions change. Neighborhood to neighborhood, the dynamics that are driving gun crime, whether it's gang-related. Even if we say that, which not all of it is. Those dynamics are very different neighborhood by neighborhoods. It needs to be embedded in communities. I think that we've learned that gang leadership. We talk about credible messengers and oftentimes that's euphemism for people who are gang-involved or who have been gang involved.
I think we need to get explicit that gang leadership is very powerful for young people who are gun carriers, both in helping to support them, helping them survive, and helping them basically gatekeeping or approving what they're allowed to talk about outside of what is a very insular community for necessity and survival sake. Gang leadership really needs to be able to be brought to the table and to be engaged in conversations so that young people feel that they have the approval and the safety because often in their world, gang leadership and these more powerful men within the gangs are those who secure the safety for the neighborhood.
Brian: Well, let's use that as a jumping-off point for some discussion. I think this is not the thing that most of the media has been focusing so much on, but you and Anthonine both brought up the Summer Youth Program in your first answers, but in very different ways. Anthonine, let me go right back to you on this as somebody who said right away, summer jobs for youth is one of the most important things that you do support in the blueprint.
The mayor announced 100,000 jobs yesterday funding for 100,000 jobs in the budget plan, but Elise just said, and I read in some of her literature too, that support for expanding summer job slots only matters if these young people who experience incredibly high exposure to violence and trauma have support for a transition into more traditional work environments and that just saying Summer Youth Employment kind of misses the point. What's your take on that?
Anthonine: It would be really hard to not acknowledge that this is a step in the right direction, especially when SYP has not been based on in the past and there have been campaigns going back decades on just trying to get this thing. I really have to agree with Elise here. It's only part of the issue and we do want to congratulate folks when they are moving a step in the right direction, but it's definitely not far enough. I think in the blueprint, in particular, we see conflicting messages. We see an expansion of SYP.
I just want to also name that we're talking about a massive expansion without a lot of detail about what that's going to look like infrastructurally for all the sites that are going to have to add new jobs. Then there's also an attack on New York State's Raise the Age law. It recommends that 16 and 17-year-olds facing gun charges be tried in criminal court rather than family court. What we're hearing Mayor Adams say here is that, yes, young people need support, but they don't need too much support.
That kind of messaging really doesn't actually help move folks forward, move young people and communities forward in the way that Elise is talking because what young people need is yes, there'll be summer jobs, they also need development programs throughout the year. We're talking about if you are a young person and you're helping to pay your family's rent on SYP, then there are a lot of other huge problems happening in your home, in your community that are actually not being addressed just by having summer youth employment.
Brian: Here's another clip, Richard Aborn, of the mayor on this show after he said he would expand city-funded summer jobs. Listen.
Mayor Adams: We have crunching the numbers now a meeting every day with OMB, my Office of Management and Budget, but we are also asking our corporate leaders to do the same, 100% paid internship program for every child that wants a job.
Brian: 100% paid internship program for every child that wants a job. The numbers that the mayor released yesterday were 100,000 city-funded summer jobs, but in the blueprint, it says 250,000 who needs summer jobs. Richard, your group was founded by members of the business community. I'm curious if you see the commitment to expand summer youth employment to that bigger number to approach the total 250,000 including 150,000 who would not be covered by the city's program per the mayor's number and suggestion there.
Richard: Yes, I do, absolutely. At the Crime Commission, we have created and now run a job skill training program and jobs placement program for people who are gang involved. These are kids who raised some of the biggest challenges in our city and live in some of the most challenged neighborhoods. We're finding enormous receptivity in the business community to accepting some of these young folks into jobs. Sometimes they have internships, sometimes they start out with apprenticeships, but the goal is to not get them into summer jobs.
The goal is to get them into permanent jobs that have a horizon, not just a very short-term low-level position, but rather someplace where they can start developing a career so we can help them understand that life can be more rewarding and see a longer-term expansion and horizon into life. Yes, I think the commitment is there. As I said in the beginning, I think we should resist the temptation to say it's one or the other. To me, it's a false binary. To me, we need to be doing all these things. Gun violence is an extraordinarily complex phenomenon. It requires a whole of government.
We should talk about that at some point. In fact, the whole of society approach. The greater community in New York has to understand that we all have a role to play in reducing this. I do think there is, though, as I said, an immediacy to it. I do think we're going to need police interventions to try and bring down some of the immediate shootings that are taking place. We're talking about summer employment, summer, so months and months away. We need to get a handle on these shootings now.
To make the obvious point, we need to do it in a way that is not violative of the constitution as stop and frisk was, that does not expose people to unnecessary dangers, and is done under extraordinarily close supervision. New York has a long history of bringing gun violence down. I think it's not, unfortunately. It's not the first time we've been in this predicament. I think if we combine the proactive police response, again, done in a careful, supervised way, and I'm well aware of the issues that have taken place in the past and have spoken out against them.
If we combine that with proper prevention and intervention of the type that we're talking about now, we can start to make some real progress. There's an interesting paradox here, Brian, I'm quite familiar with the CCI report. It's a fantastic piece of research. [crosstalk]
Brian: That's Elise's report at the Center for Court Innovation.
Richard: I'm quite familiar with it. In fact, I intend to reach out to them and ask them to build on some pieces because I think there's some more questions that they can be asking in the next round that they're doing now. It is quite clear that young people are saying they're carrying guns because of fear. I think it's the CCI report, maybe it's another one, that also says, "The age at which people are first picking up guns is getting lower and lower." We're seeing both in the research and hearing anecdotally that 12 and 13-year-olds are starting to pick up guns.
The paradox is this, if young kids are picking up guns because they're scared, unless we take away that fear, unless we provide more security to their neighborhoods, which everybody in those neighborhoods is entitled to, they're going to continue to pick up guns. I don't see a short-term way of doing that with summer jobs. They are incredibly important. I'm fully supportive of them, but the problem is literally right now. Right now, people are being shot. That, to me, is the urgency of this issue.
Brian: As we go, in our next segment, we'll talk about these neighborhood-modified uniformed anti-gun teams that the mayor wants to start releasing in neighborhoods, I guess in a matter of days now. He said a few weeks ago, it would be a few weeks. I think those are coming to selected neighborhoods. I know there's disagreement on this panel among whether that is a good idea. We will get to that, but let me take a few of our first callers and starting with Wendy in Springfield, New Jersey. Wendy, hi, you're on WNYC. You say you read the blueprint?
Wendy: Oh, yes. I'm going to be looking at page 6 and page 11. As I told you in another call, I was born and raised in Harlem. My mother tried, this was in the '70s, to help a young man. He was 12 or 13. He was definitely under 14. Yes, even then, it was getting younger and younger. She took him to agencies and they said, "Well, you have to be 14. You've already committed a crime." She brought him up to college where I was. The fellows played basketball with him and talked to him.
He went into crime. He was a bright person. He was in advanced classes, and even he ended up in crime. I hope now he's turned his life around. My point is, 16 is too late. I agree with what you've said about the summer program. You need something that starts in the school, getting people activated, and interested in something, photography, filmmaking, the arts, so that the street doesn't win.
The second thing, this thing about having a 16-year-old who has been chosen by the gang people to carry the gun because they're younger, and now you're going to say, "Well, if you don't tell us who gave you the gun, we're going to try you as an adult." This is a point that I didn't think of-- I thought on just amendments rights, but on radio gag, the public advocate, and the co-founder of Gays Against Guns were talking. The co-founder said, "Look, this is just like what happened with the drugs. The person who's at the lowest level is the one who gets the pressure." Once that person is now tried as a juvenile, everybody knows, "Okay, the person gave up the name. We're going to get him. We're going to get his family." Look what you've done. You put them at risk. Don't do this. Find another way to do it. Don't start with the person at the lowest end of the chain and put pressure on them, on this 16-year-old who you haven't helped enough so that they couldn't get away from this problem. Don't do this.
Brian: Wendy, thank you. Thank you for all that and Richard Aborn, I'm going to go right back to you on this because when you emphasize the need to not wait for summer jobs programs and to intervene on the streets right now to get shootings down right now, is that one of the things that you have in mind? That proposal that's in the blueprint that's been very controversial. That would lower the age to be charged as an adult for illegal gun possession from 18 to 16 if the mayor says that person will not give up whoever supplied him with the gun.
The theory from the mayor is that there are older gang members using younger teens as safe places, safe people with whom to stash their guns because the law exempts them from adult penalties right now. The mayor says, "Okay, 16 and 17-year-olds, if you're caught with those guns and you won't give up who gave it to you the name, then we're going to charge you as an adult." You hear the objection to that? Do you support that?
Richard: To be very honest, Brian, and just be open about this, I have very mixed feelings about this. You and I have talked about in the past, Raise the Age, I think as you know, I was one of the early proponents of the Raise the Age proposal. When I ran for DA, I pushed hard on RTA and I think it was a good law. The problem is this. We have an extraordinary problem with guns. Somebody who has received the gun or bought a gun on the streets from someone else is in a position to help us get other guns off the street.
There's a long tradition in law enforcement of giving people more lenient sentences or more lenient treatment if they help identify other criminality. On the other hand, I'm worried that these are 16-year-olds and if they do give up the source of the gun, not only is that a complicated thing for them to decide to do, but more immediately and more importantly, they may be subjecting themselves to retaliation. I think we need to be conscious of that. I had difficulty with this idea, though I fully understand the motivation behind it.
The other piece of this that we have to discuss is while these conversations tend quite properly to focus on people who are caught up in crime and understand why they are there and what we can do with the society to try and prevent that from happening, not only as an intervention, in other words, against the immediate act but also as a tool of prevention, helping them never get into that lifestyle is a conversation that we have to continue. We also need to understand that innocent people are being shot and killed.
We all know the litany of people who have been shot and killed by these illegal guns. We need to understand both sides. Both the offender side and trying to do whatever we can to prevent that person from reoffending but also do what absolutely whatever we can to protect innocent victims out there and to try and restore some stability, some of these communities.
Brian: All right, it sounds like nobody on this panel is in favor of lowering the age to 16 to be charged as an adult for some illegal gun possession charges. We'll continue in a minute with the results of a reading project. Reading Mayor Adams' Blueprint to End Gun Violence. Stay with us.
Mayor Adams: There's a feeling of sadness because I lost two amazing young people that were police officers. Officer Mora and Rivera. You never want to see violence in the city where 11-month-old babies are shot sitting next to their mothers. The six officers who were shot and the countless number of others, so there's a sadness whenever I respond to these incidents. My life has been responding to incidents and crises and bringing people together.
Brian: Can Mayor Adams, who was speaking there on the show a couple of weeks ago, bring people together on his Blueprint to End Gun Violence? Enough to implement the policies he's proposing and enough frankly to end gun violence. We're getting your comments and questions and those of our guests on the mayor's Blueprint to End Gun Violence as we wrap up our listener Reading Project with your eyes on the 15-page blueprint. You can keep posting comments with the #ReadTheBlueprint or call in at 212-433-WNYC.
Our guests are Anthonine Pierre from Communities United for Police Reform, Richard Aborn, from the Citizens Crime Commission, Elise White from the Center for Court Innovation, and Tina in Central Harlem, you're on WNYC. Thank you for calling in.
Tina: Morning, Brian. I'm a retired teacher and I love the idea of these youth job programs. They can be really wonderful. I don't know how the mayor plans 100,000 paid internships for kids. That sounds like more of his wishful thinking to me. If that was happening, wonderful. My niece was in a program a couple of years ago, summer jobs, keep them out of trouble, keep them off the street.
All they did is house teenagers in a school auditorium and pay them when there are meaningful, meaningful experiences that can be given to these young people, where they can contribute either in senior centers, in cleaning the parks, and doing all kinds of meaningful contributive work, but warehousing them, gives them just the opposite message that you want them to have.
Brian: That is if the Summer Youth Employment Program is experienced by them as warehousing, which you say it was for your niece. Let's take another caller, also on the Summer Youth Employment Program and some of its shortfalls, I think. Monica in Brooklyn, you're on WNYC. Hi, Monica.
Monica: Hi, I'm calling about my son who did apply for SYEP a couple of years ago and had a great summer job at the Department of Design Construction. The application for the SYEP was so arcane and difficult to follow that my husband who has graduate degree had to take off work twice to go to offices and help my son apply for it. I can't imagine a family where somebody can't take off work and shepherd their child through it would succeed. I just hope that that's been rectified. I hope schools are shepherding kids through the process. It was very, very difficult.
Brian: Thank you very much. Jane in Manhattan, you're on WNYC. Hi, Jane. Jane, are you there? All right, Deborah in Brooklyn who read the blueprint. Hi, Deborah.
Deborah: Hi, thank you for taking my call. I'm a retired assistant commissioner from New York City Health Department. I read the blueprint twice. I was extremely disappointed in the lack of metrics and the lack of community engagement and side by side with that hearing the mayor blaming, suggesting that bail reform is that at the heart of the recent murder, horrible murder in Chinatown. I think what's lacking if I could put my finger on the biggest thing, it's true community engagement and participation in the solution. Specifically, I'll mention the expa-- very worried about the expansion of police in 30 precincts.
What about an expansion of community-trained violence interrupter in those precincts, working with police looking at solutions from community who are impacted? No mention of training of police and dealing with the racism that we see that impact who is brought in, who is accused. Finally, I'm concerned about the mayor's desire to give judges the ability-- He says it's in the blueprint to assess "dangerousness of someone when deciding whether to give bail." That is very frightening to me and is known to choose a bias and to penalize particularly Black and brown people.
We should not be looking at this as a way to address our problems. I hope that the mayor can look at this and look at that there are no metrics in this and no budget and the devil will be in the details on how much we're going to truly bring community to the solution.
Brian: Deborah, thank you so much for your call. I want to pick up on a few pieces of what Deborah brought up there. Elise White from the Center for Court Innovation, let me go to you first because what you do at the Center for Court Innovation as you described earlier in the hour is all data-driven. You do research and you come up with data hopefully in support of solutions to gun violence and other problems. Do you agree that there's a lack of metrics in the blueprint to end gun violence in a way that troubles you?
Elise: I do agree that there does seem to be a lack of metrics. There seems to be a lack of details in general so I think the metrics is just one piece of where there's some maybe vagueness.
Brian: What would you like to see measured?
Elise: How exactly this thing could be implemented.
Brian: What would you like to see in that?
Elise: I think that there are all sorts of things. Number one, I think it would be helpful to see some real documentation for why these specific initiatives are being targeted and what the specific outcomes are that the mayor expects to see affected. That's thing number one. Number two, I think it would be helpful, and again, I'm going to go back to the work that I do, which is that I think it would be helpful for us to see exactly how they're breaking down and understanding or conceptualizing gun use because there does seem to be like what to me seems like a false juxtaposition between trigger pullers and then victims.
Here, it does seem to read as though the victims are non-gun carrying community members, which obviously that happens and it's tragic absolutely, and these young people are both perpetrators and victims. I think we're focused here on SYEP, which is great, but to be looking I think as Anthonine has spoken to, and also Richard, these young people exist within networks, within communities, and within structures. How are we conceptualizing them, I guess, as the people that they are rather than just the guns that they're carrying that seems to be [unintelligible 00:31:51] [crosstalk]?
Brian: This comes back to what you said at the beginning of the hour, that your data suggests many or even most young people who carry guns in New York, including those who might be identified as gang members in many cases, do so for what they see as protection, not plans to be aggressive or a criminal. Is there a central proposal from your group, the center for court in innovation that discusses how gray that line is that addresses it with a policy and intervention?
Elise: I think a lot of the community work that we do is in place and has that gray line in mind, basically. We want to engage all the young people that come through our doors, whether they have a criminal court case or a family court case, or they are in the foster care system, or they're just kids in the community looking to be part of an afterschool program as young people who all need support, who have a vast array of needs, and also a vast array of skills and things that they can contribute.
We look to them as recipients of services, but also with drivers of change, if that is something that they're interested in.
Brian: The other thing that the caller brought up was bail reform, and here we are 35 minutes into this conversation and we haven't really mentioned bail reform and we could spend the whole hour on it, which we won't because that's all that the rest of the media seems to be doing. Richard Aborn from the Citizens Crime Commission on the specific question of the effects so far for the two years that bail reform has been in effect and to the caller's interest in data, the supporters of the reform in place say the data refutes the arguments that it's increasing danger on the streets.
Because, A, just 2% of the people released before trial or committing serious crimes during that the State Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins was citing that stat here on the show just yesterday. B, other cities that did not just implement bail reform are seeing as bad or worse increases in shootings as New York. If those things are true, then why isn't all the pressure to jail more defendants based on perceived dangerousness just fake?
Richard: I think there are two levels to this inquiry. If one asks the direct, whether there's a direct correlation between, or even causation for that matter, between bail reform and increased crime on the streets, I think one would be hard pressed to find data supporting that, but there's a second level of inquiry. To the extent that we believe that deterrence impacts some of the offenders out there, it certainly doesn't impact everybody, but it impacts some offenders and I think the research pretty reliably shows that.
Then the lack of the issue of dangerousness, and I'll talk about that in a second, impacts that narrative. It says that we are lowering the potential penalties or the potential impacts from committing crimes. Why do I say that? New York is the only state in the United States, including all of the Federal Courts, the Federal system that does not consider dangerousness in deciding whether or not a judge can set bail. To my way of thinking, this is not a place for New York exceptionalism. I think this is one piece of the bail reform package that we should change.
I think everything else is by and large okay. I think some of the bail reform conversation should actually be about the discovery issues, which are in some ways more problematic, but less known, but we can talk about that.
Brian: That's not enough time for prosecutors to develop evidence, but if the data doesn't reflect the serious crime recidivism that the rhetoric suggests, then why does New York have to join the other 49 states?
Richard: Because crime in New York is particularly violent crime, shootings and murders are skyrocketing. Absolutely skyrocketing. The numbers are now staggering far beyond where any of us thought we be at this point. We have to do things to change the narrative out there so that people understand there is going to be an immediate response to violent crime. That's not something that's necessarily subject to metrics. That's a hard thing to measure, I completely acknowledge that, but people have measured the impact of deterrence theory.
They have measured the impact of visible policing and that research shows that both visible policing and overall deterrence, which we can talk about if you like, does have an impact on crime. It's not a solution. There are no single solutions in this space, but it is one of the things that helps us.
Brian: Anthonine Pierre from Communities United for Police Reform, I imagine you'd like to respond to that.
Anthonine: Yes, absolutely. I think when we look at what's been happening at the state level in terms of bail reform, there are a few things that we want to be aware of. I think, one, is that the bail reforms that we're passed in 2019 were actually rolled back already in 2020. Any conversation that we're having about bail reform is actually regressive. We're talking about reforms that are actually going to take us to places that New York has never been in. As Richard said that we've never had a standard of dangerousness and I don't think now is the time to stop.
Another thing we want to think about the fact that only 4% of those of folks who were released on bail in 2020 were rearrested for violent felonies and only 1% were rearrested for crimes involving again. We really have to ask ourselves, does having these regressive policies on bail and discovery does this actually impact our public health in a way that makes sense? I raise public health in particular because we know that incarceration is associated with so many different kinds of indicators of poor health from depression to anxiety, to sexually transmitted infections.
The real question when we think about the solutions that are offered by the criminal legal system, in general, is what the system is offering us better for community health, better for family health, better for individual health than it is for punishment.
Brian: Here's a tweet that's coming in with a question, and the question is what exactly do the mayor's gun teams do and not do? Anthonine, I'm going to stay with you on this for the first response. We know that one of the controversies in the blueprint is what the mayor calls neighborhood safety teams in the 30 precincts with the most shootings, and the mayor says they will be wearing modified uniforms, so they won't be plainclothes like the abusive units of the past.
How do you understand this idea of modified uniforms and can that help make these units more effective at getting guns off the street while avoiding abusive and discriminatory policing?
Anthonine: Yes, I imagine that we'll see them wearing a lot of what we've seen Mayor Eric Adams wearing over the last month or so, which is plain clothes with some insignia on it, which is still a version of plain clothes. When we talk about what's going on in these neighborhoods, what has really gotten lost in this conversation is, these precincts that are going to be targeted, what are they? If we look at these precincts we see that 32 of the 34 precincts are majority Black and Latinx, and so we've got this blueprint that the mayor speaks to public health.
He says that gun violence is public health problem. Thank you for asking so many New Yorkers to read the blueprint because the first, the cover is police officers. It's an NYPD cover. It's called the Blueprint. We're talking about "supporting these precincts, supporting these neighborhoods." What we actually see being offered is this policing. When we talk about neighborhood safety, these neighborhood safety teams, one thing I want to note is that in 2021, the NYPD itself commissioned a study that showed that people who live in these precincts, people who live in these neighborhoods have the views that police do not treat people fairly.
That police use force when it's not necessary, that their neighborhood is not in a better place because of police, and the police do not address the problems of concern to their community. If we really want to address what's happening in these neighborhoods, clearly, policing is not the answer. What we need to be looking at is the structural violence and the racial violence that's concentrated in these neighborhoods.
Brian: The polls show that people in the neighborhoods you're talking about generally do not want less policing, they want better policing. Do you disagree?
Anthonine: I don't disagree. I think what we're talking about here is how neighborhoods understand safety. We've all been raised in this place where we're taught. If something bad happens, you call a cop. We've all internalized the idea that being safe means calling police, even as we've lived in a place where we've seen and experienced aggressive policing, police violence, police murders of civilians.
Where we are, particularly in this point where this mid-pandemic point is, we really need to be reconceptualizing safety and understanding that policing does negatively impact public health that people experience because of surveillance and police contacts. People experience anxiety and depression, and that if we actually want to create safety, we need to expand alternatives to policing, we need to expand acute violent prevention, and intervention programs.
Brian: Richard Aborn, I'll go back to you on this as I think a supporter of these modified uniform teams that are going to be entering the 30 highest shooting precincts, what do the modified uniforms do in terms of protecting citizens from police abuse that the old pure plain clothes did not?
Richard: First of all, it lets people know that they're police presence which helps, but I think the more pertinent question--
Brian: Why not wear a full blue NYPD uniform? What's the difference? Help me understand that.
Richard: The difference is these are undercover operations where they're trying to identify people who are carrying weapons, and seize those people, get that illegal gun off the street. You can't do that if you're in full uniform. New York and cities across the country have a long history with using undercover operations to identify and seize contraband. I don't think the technique is so much called to the question. It's whether or not these units are properly supervised. What hasn't been publicized is that New York has been using undercover operations throughout to seize the illegal guns.
In fact, we, the city, have seized more illegal guns in the last few years than any other year in the past 10 or 15 years. The big question is whether or not these units engage in the conduct that led to the death of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell. If that were to happen, whatever goodwill the mayor has built up will be gone in a flash.
I think the mayor has been crystal clear publicly, and I'm sure privately as well, that there has to be extraordinarily tight supervision over these units, that these units need to be very carefully trained, and their conduct very carefully monitored. This is a-- I think it's a prudent course, but it is one that could bring some real danger real quickly, so we need to be conscious of that.
Brian: Elise, anything from you on that from the Center for Court Innovation?
Elise: I think the only thing that I would add because I think these are all pretty solid points that our data certainly supports, is that young people-- It's just to hammer home this idea that these kids were carrying guns, already perceived themselves to be at war. Strategies that increase that sense are going to lead to more gun carrying in the short term. They're very clear that there's a direct correlation for them. I think the more police that are put on the street, it does increase significant risk for them.
Brian: We will continue in a minute.
Richard: I also wanted to point.
Brian: Go ahead, Richard, please.
Richard: Sorry, I don't want to interrupt anybody. If I could just expand this conversation a bit and suggest this, there is no question in anybody's mind, certainly not in my mind. I've been outspoken about this. That we need to engage in very serious police reform. The stories we're hearing about over-aggressiveness, sometimes violence, inappropriate behavior, et cetera, are well documented and well known and you see it reflected in people's attitudes towards the cops.
We have a moment here, where I think in a way that I've not seen before, the community becoming involved in the efforts to promote public safety, and the police department increasingly aware of the reform. Some of the reforms that they have to invoke in their behavior, and certainly the mayor is aware of this. I think this is the moment to have that kind of conversation about police reform while we are doing these things. That conversation does not need to wait.
We're working on a concept with the University of Chicago that would convert this 19th-century police force model we have into a police service model, so that the police would actually be in more service to the community, including doing both intervention and prevention. I think those are the kind of conversations that we should be having now while we're carrying out these different sorts of police operations. It's truly the right moment to do that.
Brian: We'll continue and finish up with our reading project of the Blueprint to End Gun Violence from Mayor Adams with our three guests in your calls and tweets right after this.
The blueprint cites 250,000 that number, young people who would be out of school and out of work. Do you have a number yet for how many the city will be able to afford to employ?
Mayor Adams: I'm glad you mentioned that because you never hear people when they talk about my plan. They don't talk about the preventive measures because public safety is intervention prevention. We've outlined some real issues that we want to do that's really unique and no one knows it better than a person that has gone through a life of looking for that summer youth employment.
Brian: A little exchange between me and the mayor from a couple of weeks ago, as we're getting your comments and questions and those of our guests on Mayor Adams's Blueprint to End Gun Violence as we wrap up our listener Reading Project, with your eyes on the 15-page Blueprint. You can keep posting comments with the #ReadTheBlueprint or call in at 212-433-WNYC. We have about another 10 minutes in the segment.
Our guests are Anthonine Pierre from Communities United for Police Reform, Richard Aborn from the Citizens Crime Commission, and Elise White from the Center for Court Innovation. Jane in Manhattan, who we couldn't hear when we were trying to get you on the air before, I think now you're ready for us. Hi, Jane, you're on WNYC.
Jane: Yes, every morning to you, Brian. I was on the program. Thank you for the great job that you do. Good morning to your guests. I have not read that document Mayor Adams' talking about. I am a senior and so I don't have access to all those things. As far as I'm concerned, it's like why would we have to go read hundreds of pages when it's his job to fully explain, break it down his exact plans that he has for us, the constituents. He's telling us to read it. "Oh, so don't bother me. Just go and read it for yourself. Don't bother me." That's what I'm getting.
In terms of the 13, 14-year-old children with these weapons, I don't know where they're getting it from. When these people are caught up, they need to be sent to the big man's prison. That is where they belong because they are trying to end other people's innocent children's lives, and innocent little children are being damaged, and the parents also must be found out and sent to prison as well because it's called accountability. I believe strongly 100% critical and detrimental punishment. That's what I believe because if that's not going to take place, then we will be the same situation all of our lives. Accountability.
Brian: Jane, thank you. Accountability. I hear you. Thank you very much for your call. Anthonine from Communities United for Police Reform, not that everybody in New York would put it as starkly as Jane did. When you look at the Quinnipiac poll that came out last week, Black New Yorkers seem to be more in support of Mayor Adams' action so far on crime in particular, than any other group with a clear majority in support. Do you think people don't get it? With respect to the positions that you have, do you think there are more people like Jane out there than maybe the public conversation recognizes? How do you see that poll number with so much Black support for Mayor Adams' policies on crime?
Anthonine: Absolutely. I think we really, again, need to go back to the neighborhoods that are experiencing the gun violence, these majority-Black neighborhoods. What we're hearing the way that I interpret this poll is really that people-- It's hard. I live in Flatbush, and you worry about gun violence. This is a real concern that people have. What Jane was talking about, we've already done.
Those of us who've lived through a Giuliani, New York or Bloomberg, New York, de Blasio in New York, we've seen this increased policing and what has come out of it has been a new generation, a new culture of gun violence that feels even more impenetrable than what we used to-- [crosstalk]
Brian Lehrer: Although what they would say those three mayors is that gun violence went down and down and down and down. With all those policies in place, and only now in the last few years during the pandemic has it popped up again.
Anthonine: Well, when you look at who's actually doing the gun violence, I really want to point to actually report from the Center for Court Innovation that the people who are currently involved in gun violence, 88% of these folks have had a family member or a friend shot. The nexus of all of this violence really is the systemic under-resourcing of communities and even though we've seen a ton of policing, what we have not seen at the same scale, is these communities being flooded with housing, jobs, education, and food security.
What we're starting to see with the mayor's new budget is fiscally responsible policing, as opposed to actually bring in the resources that are going to undermine and uproot that violence.
Brian: Elise White from the Center for Court Innovation, let me go back to you. Anthonine just cited you there and I'm curious if you've looked yet at the mayor's first annual city budget proposal that just came out yesterday, through a Blueprint to End Gun Violence lens, is he funding the various pieces of prevention, as well as intervention in ways that say where he's willing to put his money where his mouth is and where he's not?
Elise: I have not had an opportunity to look at it but what I will say is, I completely agree with what Anthonine just said. What we heard over and over again, from the people we interviewed is, I was young, I was a kid, I was going to school, I was going about my life, something happened to me that made me fear for my safety and then I turned to gun carrying or I turned to this, or I turned to that.
I'm also asked, actually, that historically, these programs, I mean, prevention programs are not funded anywhere near the rate of the intervention rates, especially when we get to this level of the crisis because it is a crisis. It's a crisis for everybody involved, I think. Maybe I'll just leave my comment there.
Brian: Well, to wrap up, are we missing the elephant in the room? The neighborhoods, the mayor cites as having a large majority of shootings are just economically poor than the rest of the city, and have more Black and Latino residents. Therefore, the real root cause we could say is poverty, born of long-standing systemic racism. The blueprint doesn't say that, in that way. Should the Blueprint to End Gun Violence be a blueprint to end chronic inequality and poverty? Is that the conversation or a conversation that we should be having?
We'll go around the room on this and hear Richard Aborn, is it a conversation the blueprint is having without quite putting it that way? The mayor does talk like that some of the time.
Richard: Of course, it's a conversation we have to have. This is a continuum. This is not a series of one choice or the other. We have to start with getting the gun violence down but we have to engage in these much longer-term conversations if we're going to reduce violence on a permanent basis. Brian, you made the point exactly I was going to make is we have success and driving gun violence down. We've been here before, unfortunately, and brought the numbers very low.
We can do that again and we now have the benefit of having learned from our mistakes in the past so we can do it again without committing those mistakes. If we stop there, and don't have the conversation about the devastating lives are led by a lot of folks in these very, very challenged neighborhoods and we're making a very big mistake. This is the moment to have that conversation, like it is around police reform, all these elements are starting to come together.
This is one of those crises that we can really turn into an opportunity and let's not forget when we talk about budgets, it's not just the City of New York that's putting money into prevention. The president's budget is giving lots of money to the City of New York folks specifically violence interrupters, and other community-based interventions. I think the money issue is going to be fine. I think there are plenty of funds therefor these programs.
Brian: Anthonine, same question.
Anthonine: Absolutely. The blueprint completely ignores the racial and spatial violence that concentrates Black, Latinx folks in these neighborhoods, low income. If we take Brownsville and we compare it to the Upper East Side, what we see is an average household income in Brownsville of $30,000 versus on the Upper East Side, an average household income of $125,000.
When we're talking about this level of systemic inequity to simply try to in size and just remove gun violence without addressing everything else, it does a disservice and it really shows that this blueprint is not as Mayor Adam says about public health problems. It's not about public health solutions. It really is just about expanding the power of NYPD.
Brian: He certainly does call gun violence a public health problem in the blueprint. Elise White, you've got the last word.
Elise: I think that when we're talking about lowering the number of gun crimes and gun violence, we have to remember that those have come at a great, great cost. When we're talking about the conversation this time around, I think framing it in terms of public safety, and wellbeing is where we're going to see the most comprehensive array of responses that help all New Yorkers achieve lasting safety.
Brian: It ends our Reading Project on Mayor Adams' Blueprint to End Gun Violence, we thank all of you who engaged as New Yorkers to read and comment and ask questions and we thank our guests Anthonine Pierre from Communities United for Police Reform, Richard Aborn from the Citizens Crime Commission, and Elise White from the Center for Court Innovation. Thank you all so much.
Richard: Thank you, Brian.
Anthonine: Thank you.
Elise: Thank you, Brian.
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