New York City rolls out most detailed plan yet to reduce gun violence

by Samantha Max
August 1, 2023

Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a $485 million plan to curb gun violence Monday, including more support for teens who aren’t on track to graduate high school, upgrades to public housing, job training for young people in neighborhoods with high poverty rates and better mental health care in city jails.

The plan also prioritizes funding for six NYPD precincts in the Bronx and Brooklyn that accounted for a quarter of the city’s shooting incidents last year. …

Challenges of measuring effectiveness

The report includes a list of “key performance indicators,” intended to show whether the plan is working. Those include obvious data points, such as the number of people shot and the rate of assault hospitalizations. But city officials also want to see drops in school absenteeism, shorter waitlists for housing when people are released from jail and more trees planted along city streets.

Researcher Jeffrey Butts said the city should partner with a third-party to monitor and analyze the data in a way that is “systematic and unbiased.” “As long as the internal people answer to the same boss, it’s really hard to deliver bad news,” said Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “The chief executive often hears how great things are going and never hears that there were indicators of things not going that great.”

Even with an impartial research partner, Butts said, the breadth and design of the plan could make it difficult to assess. He said it will be tough to tell whether any one program is actually causing a drop in shootings, with so many being carried out at the same time. Butts noted that only analyzing neighborhoods with high rates of violence could also skew the metrics, because they’re statistically more likely to drop. “You don’t know whether you created those changes, or you just happened to start measuring them when they were at a high point and subsequently, they went down,” he said. “But you don’t know whether you created that decline.”

Butts recommended that the city compare data trends in those high-violence precincts with similar neighborhoods that don’t have the violence prevention programs in place, so that officials can more effectively measure whether the city’s investments actually paid off.

“If you can’t make a reasonable argument that your interventions led to the improvement, there are lots of people waiting to take away your budget, cut your programs, go after you politically,” he said. “It’s always a contentious area of policy, and you have to be ready to defend your good ideas from detractors.”

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Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office