by Sheyla A. Delgado, Jeffrey A. Butts, and Laila Alsabahi
The Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice is assessing New York City’s violence reduction efforts. One element in the project involves in-person surveys with young men (ages 18-30) in various New York City neighborhoods. The survey relies on Respondent-Driven Sampling (RDS) and the results depict the respondents’ attitudes towards violence, their direct experience with violence, and their awareness of local violence prevention efforts.
This brief presents results from project surveys in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, where the Center for Court Innovation opened a new Cure Violence program in September 2014 with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The survey will be conducted again in 2016 to detect additional changes during the study period. See the Research and Evaluation Center’s website for additional information: www.JohnJayREC.nyc .
This study’s main goal was to measure changes in violent norms and attitudes in specific areas of New York City. The survey measured each respondent’s willingness to use violence in 17 hypothetical confrontation scenarios that ranged from minor to severe provocations. An index (or a composite score) was created from all 17 scenarios.
The possible responses in each scenario were assigned a value from one to five, ranked in order of severity. An “ignore” response received the lowest score while “react verbally” or “react physically” received higher scores. The most violent responses, “pull a weapon” and “use a weapon” received the highest scores overall.
Survey respondents usually ranked the scenarios involving threats and the need for protection (e.g., being physically attacked at a party or witnessing a friend being physically attacked) as warranting the most violent reactions.
After the scenarios related to physical threats, respondents ranked the most serious provocations as those involving disputes over money and disrespect. Competition and jealousy related to intimate partners ranked lower.
Young men in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn report slightly greater confidence in law enforcement to help with neighborhood violence (48% in 2015 versus 43% in 2014), and they were more willing to contact police in the event of violence (55% vs. 46%). Their exposure to gun violence actually increased slightly between 2014 and 2015, with more respondents having seen guns in 2015 (28% vs. 24%) and more hearing gunfire in their neighborhood (76% in 2015 vs. 72% in 2014). Nearly equal numbers of young men heard of someone being threatened with a gun (45% vs 44% in 2014).
Their awareness of the public messaging efforts of Cure Violence in Bedford-Stuyvesant was very high (84% in 2015) and their recognition of Cure Violence staff members was considerable (30%) considering that the program just opened in 2014.
Most importantly, when respondents in Bedford-Stuyvesant were asked a series of questions designed to measure their support for interpersonal violence in confrontational situations, they were noticeably less likely to see violence as an appropriate response to conflict. Eight of the seventeen indices declined more than 10 percent between 2014 and 2015, and six others dropped by at least 5 percent. The largest decreases in support for violence were observed among the more provocative confrontation scenarios (physical threats and conflicts over money). The least provocative scenarios (jealousy over intimate partners) declined less.
Delgado, Sheyla A., Jeffrey A. Butts, and Laila Alsabahi (2015). Perceptions of Violence in Bedford-Stuyvesant (Brooklyn). [Research Brief 2015-06]. New York, NY: Research & Evaluation Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Funding support for this research brief was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New York City Council. The authors are grateful for the cooperation and support of the hundreds of New York City residents who participated in the surveys on which this research brief is based. Points of view or opinions contained within this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of John Jay College, the City University of New York, or the organizations that fund their research projects.