City Lab — As Murders Rise, New York City Turns to a Police Alternative

Community members are trying to settle disputes before guns are drawn — but funding for such programs is limited and crime is on the rise.

By Henry Goldman
July 30, 2020

It’s unclear what has caused the recent increase in violent crime in New York, where communities are exploring alternatives to policing. Photographer: Henry Goldman/Bloomberg

… New York prides itself on being one of the safest U.S. cities after lowering homicides to a fraction of what they were three decades ago, with law enforcement taking much of the credit. Now, a jump in shootings coupled with growing criticism over police brutality has eroded that confidence, and the city is turning to neighborhood groups outside of the usual system. … Now 14 organizations have more than 200 people on the streets in at least 20 of the city’s most dangerous crime hot spots.

“They try to stop the cycle of retaliation, and because they are not seen as an extension of law enforcement, the people most likely to be walking around with handguns in their pocket will talk to them and will allow them to settle a dispute before it turns violent,” said Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “That kind of information police will never have, this early knowledge of what’s going on in the neighborhood and who’s beefing with who.”

A 2017 study Butts co-authored at John Jay found that gun injuries fell to 22 from 44 in a small slice of the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn when he compared three-year intervals between 2010 and 2016 before and after a cure violence program set up shop. In part of the South Bronx in 2012 where 35 people had been shot in a four-year span, just 13 were wounded in the next four years after a similar program intervened. Yet in another 2016 study of community-based violence prevention in five U.S. cities, Butts concluded that while they may have achieved some success, crime data and surveys didn’t identify consistent effects on youth violence and public safety. …

read the article at Bloomberg News ]