Implementing the New York City Crisis Management System
Save Our Streets (S.O.S.) South Bronx serves as the host organization for the Bronx Cure Violence program. Save Our Streets in South Bronx and its sister organization, S.O.S. Crown Heights, are demonstration projects of the Center for Court Innovation (CCI). The Center for Court Innovation is a well-known research and development organization based in New York City that has strong ties to City Hall and the City Council. One of their primary areas of work is the implementation of demonstration projects, such as S.O.S. South Bronx.
Save Our Streets South Bronx began implementing the Cure Violence program in January 2013. The program’s catchment area lies within the 40th precinct of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and runs from 147th street and St. Anns Avenue, to 156th street and Union Avenue. The NYPD considers the program’s catchment area as an “Impact Zone,” which is an NYPD designation for a high-crime, hot spot area. There are three large public housing developments within the Cure Violence catchment area, all of which have a recent history of attracting violence.
Cure Violence Component
The South Bronx effort focuses on three core components of the Cure Violence model — interruption, outreach, and public education — as well as the wrap-around services suggested by the City Council’s crisis manaement system.
Program staff includes the citywide coordinator for anti-violence programs at the Center for Court Innovation, a program manager, three violence interrupters, the outreach supervisor, and two outreach workers. The violence interrupters, outreach workers, and outreach supervisor undergo a formal hiring process with a hiring panel. The panel consists of personnel from NYPD, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the Cure Violence national staff, faith leaders, and other community stakeholders. The purposes of the hiring panel are to prevent nepotism and to ensure that S.O.S. staff members are what the Cure Violence model calls “credible messengers,” or individuals with the knowledge and personal experience to be taken seriously by young people who may be deeply involved in crime and violence.
As in all Cure Violence program sites, staff training is essential for effective implementation. The staff from Save Our Streets receives ongoing training from the Cure Violence national team. During training, staff members learn about the Cure Violence model, how it works on the ground, and how to properly implement it. They also receive training on how to mediate conflicts effectively and how to utilize Motivational Interviewing (M.I.), which is a client-centered technique that supports successful behavior change. In addition, the Center for Court Innovation trains program staff members on management and supervision techniques as well as sexual harassment policies in the workplace. These training sessions are designed to equip South Bronx staff with the necessary tools to implement the Cure Violence model.
The primary work of violence interrupters consists of diffusing violent situations on the streets. They routinely canvass the catchment area to network with residents in the community, distribute public education materials, mediate conflicts, and identify high-risk individuals who could potentially be recruited into the program. Both violence interrupters and outreach workers recruit youth from the streets and then work to develop relationships with them and to encourage them to visit the S.O.S. South Bronx office. Once in the office, an outreach worker takes primary responsibility for working directly with each participant.
Outreach workers collaborate with violence interrupters to maximize the team’s efforts. Unlike traditional office-based social services, outreach workers spend a significant amount of time in the neighborhood and in the street. They identify high-risk individuals who are likely to initiate gun violence and they try to educate youth about the consequences of gun violence. Once a youth enters the S.O.S. South Bronx program, an outreach worker assesses the participant’s risks and needs and creates a risk reduction plan. For example, if a participant indicates that he or she would like to obtain a GED, an outreach worker might connect them and even personally escort them to New York’s Osborne Association, which provides educational assistance to justice-involved clients.
Outreach workers, who have caseloads of up to 15 participants, are in continual communication with program participants. Outreach workers and violence interrupters record their daily interactions with participants and community members in an office journal. They use this journal during their daily staff meetings, where they update each other about their caseloads and discuss shootings that have occurred and any related disputes that may result in future shootings.
Finally, the S.O.S. South Bronx site engages in an ongoing public education campaign to change community norms toward violence. The staff hands out public education materials about violence to potential participants as a way of opening up a dialogue with them. The distribution of such materials also helps to establish the program’s presence in the larger community.
Wrap-around services are an important aspect of the City Council’s crisis management system and the staff of Save Our Streets South Bronx fully supports this component. The incorporation of wrap-around services encourages the program to be sensitive to the life circumstances of the client population and to be familiar with the needs of each participant. The South Bronx program offers a range of wrap-around services to participants, their friends and families, and the community as a whole.
Legal services: The Legal Aid Society and the Bronx Defenders provide legal advice to staff members and to participants undergoing court proceedings. Save Our Streets has a strong relationship with both providers. The Legal Aid Society has an office nearby in the South Bronx, which gives program staff easy access to services. This often turns out to be helpful for participants. Youth sometimes think they have specialized knowledge about the justice system, and they may share inaccurate legal advice with their peers.
Job placement and training: The Osborne Association offers educational and job placement services to S.O.S. South Bronx participants. Osborne runs an 8-week job readiness program where participants learn about money management, appropriate behavior in the workplace, and they are encouraged to participate in mock job interviews. The Bronx site of the Osborne Association is located within 0.2 miles of the S.O.S. South Bronx office. This is convenient for participants of the program, given that their group affiliations often restrict them from certain areas. Providers who are readily available to participants are essential to facilitate the delivery of effective services and to encourage stronger social bonds for program participants through employment, community service, and civic engagement.
Mental health: The Fortune Society provides mental health services to youth at-risk for gun violence, especially those who have experienced high levels of trauma due to experiences with violence. Their office is located in Long Island City, Queens. Despite the distance between the Fortune Society and S.O.S. South Bronx, at the request of S.O.S. South Bronx staff, a representative from the Fortune Society visits the S.O.S. office routinely to meet with program participants. In addition, the Fortune Society runs monthly workshops for participants and their relatives at the S.O.S. South Bronx headquarters. According to program staff, the Fortune Society is open and flexible when it comes to serving youth.
Community health: The community health component provides supports and services to families who have lost a child to gun violence. The staff of S.O.S. South Bronx established a partnership with St. Ann’s Anti-Violence Program, headed by Gloria Cruz, who has been working with families affected by gun violence for many years.
Conflict mediation: ENACT serves as the provider for the conflict mediation component in the South Bronx. They run conflict resolution workshops in two South Bronx high schools.
Strengths and Challenges
The South Bronx community is supportive of the S.O.S. South Bronx mission. Residents have shown their support for the program by attending events, and they have expressed to staff that their work is helping to create a safe and secure community. S.O.S. South Bronx staff has been active in attending community events, such as New York City Housing Authority meetings.
City agencies have been very supportive of S.O.S. South Bronx throughout the initial implementation of the Cure Violence program. For example, Save Our Streets South Bronx has a strong relationship with NYCHA. Whenever necessary, NYCHA allows program staff to use its community center space. The New York Police Department (NYPD) has also been supportive. Whenever S.O.S. South Bronx organizes a march, NYPD officers are there to support the effort and ensure the public safety. At the managerial level, there is a positive relationship with the NYPD. The Department always invites the S.O.S. South Bronx program manager to the 40th precinct’s roll call meetings, which are organized to discuss the most serious ongoing cases. Other key sources of city support include the Bronx Borough President’s office and Community Board One.
The S.O.S. South Bronx site has received a tremendous amount of support from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), which oversees and monitors the implementation of the Crisis Management System citywide. DOHMH provides support and training for the staff. The agency holds a monthly meeting with program managers so that all sites can discuss issues and achievements with one another. The staff of DOHMH also serves as a liaison between the New York City program sites and the Cure Violence national team in Chicago.
The S.O.S. South Bronx staff has been using the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention (CPVP) database to collect data, track participant outcomes, and determine strategies for addressing ongoing shooting incidents. Staff has been consistent in entering information in the database. Members of the staff carry a small pad with them to take notes as necessary when meeting with participants in the neighborhood. Staff members make daily entries in their office journals, which remind them of the information they need to enter into the database.
Like most programs, S.O.S. South Bronx has faced some challenges in implementing the Cure Violence model. The funding stream from the City has been an elaborate process, and it works differently in each of the pilot sites. Fortunately, S.O.S. South Bronx was able to begin its operations with funds provided by the Center for Court Innovation, their governing agency. The program was able to use CCI funds initially to run their daily operations and to cover employee salaries. Because they have close relationships with the other Cure Violence pilot sites in the city, they have witnessed sister agencies struggle during the implementation process due to the funding process. Another key advantage for the South Bronx site is that the citywide coordinator for anti-violence programs at the Center for Court Innovation has extensive experience in program implementation, especially with the Cure Violence model, even before the launch of the New York City crisis management system.
The program has also contended with challenges related to the size of the neighborhood population. The Cure Violence model recommended that a catchment area be 10 square blocks. It proved difficult, however, to maintain operations within this pre-selected area. The program staff soon realized that the original catchment area was too large. The staff couldn’t realistically manage contacts and relationships with the number of potential program participants in such a large urban area. To address this challenge, S.O.S. South Bronx staff considered shrinking the catchment area or relocating the program’s main office. The program encountered additional obstacles related to community outreach. As in other Cure Violence programs, the staff found it difficult during the initial phases of implementation to recruit new participants or to establish relationships given the tools and resources available. This remained an ongoing topic of training and program development, and the program now reports that staff members have built the necessary relationships within the community and are successfully attracting new program participants on a regular basis.