A hopefully ‘Safe Summer NYC’ as de Blasio rolls out public safety plans

A gunshot victim crashed into construction site at East 108 Street and Farragut Road in Canarsie, Brooklyn. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city’s comprehensive plan to end gun violence and keep streets ‘safe this summer’ as the spike in shootings goes up again from already high rates last year.

“These threes, community, cops, and courts, will make all the difference and it’s the exact right time to do it,” said de Blasio.

The plan, aptly named Safe Summer NYC, aims to deter gun violence and the selling of illegal firearms by focusing on increased investment in communities and youth programs, strategic police presence in targeted neighborhoods and precincts, and greater coordination in the courts and across the criminal justice system.

“Today’s announcement should be a start, not an end, of what we do in the weeks ahead to take on violent crime this summer and the factors that feed it. The city should partner with our private and non-profit sectors to double its expansion of summer employment opportunities for at-risk youth,” said Mayoral candidate and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in a statement.  

“Our ‘violence interrupters’ should be granted more centralized coordination for the essential work they do between different organizations throughout our city, including the NYPD and our hospitals where critical work can be done to prevent retaliatory shootings,” Adams added.

The first step in this elaborate effort to incorporate more collaborative and holistic policing was to launch the long-awaited, decades-long project for the 116th Precinct and community center in southeast Queens, which was a move applauded by elected officials, such as Congressman Gregory Meeks, City Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

“This is indeed a day of celebration for those who have struggled since 1977 to make this happen,” said Meeks.

Next, De Blasio and NYPD Police Chief Rodney Harrison moved onto “address the scourge of gun violence” plaguing the rest of the city, and said they are immediately implementing the other phases of the public safety plan. Harrison, who’s also a south Jamaica Queens native, added his support for the 116th Precinct.

De Blasio said they are launching the Joint Force to End Gun Violence, which adds members of the NYPD, Cure Violence providers, District Attorney offices, city agencies, and local community groups together. For the courts, District Attorneys Eric Gonzalez in Brooklyn and Melinda Katz in Queens weighed in on how they will expand the plan to in-person operations, and prioritize serious gun cases.

De Blasio said investing in neighborhood policing means the city will increase cure violence staff, double summer youth anti-violence employment slots from 800 to 2000, create more safe parks and gang-free protected places, host Saturday Night Light games at 100 sites citywide, refurbish 15 basketball courts at NYCHA developments by August, and hold anti-violence fairs in 30 neighborhoods across the city.

“In order for us to make this a safer city, cops plus community is going to be the strategy,” said Harrison. “We have a couple of things in place that we just need to strengthen.”

 Harrison said investing in precision policing means cracking down on the 100 blocks with the highest rates of gun violence in communities. The goal is to have cops target gangs and crews specifically. 

Harrison said another strategy is to re-launch Ceasefire, a program that uses violence interrupters to deliver strong messages to “gang members” and violent offenders. “The way Ceasefire works is that we’re working with our community partners to make these notifications and I think that’s going to be a big step in the right direction,” said Harrison. “We want people to come forward.”

The city is also looking to increase anonymous tip awards up to $5,000 for reports about gun crimes and gun stops to cut down on the amount of weapons circulating this summer. There will also be a gun buyback amnesty program where people will be rewarded for turning over handguns or rifles, said Harrison.

Harrison said that the NYPD is looking to enhance patrol strength by shifting about 200 officers from administrative assignments to key areas struggling with gun violence. He said they will focus on the most problematic precincts such as, the 75th in East New York, Brooklyn and the 48th in Tremont, Bronx.

Adams said fervently that it was also time to re-deploy but reimagine the anti-crime unit to effectively get guns and violent criminals off the streets without “recklessly” impacting neighborhoods.

Lastly, de Blasio said that Congress has to act on the issue of guns once and for all.

“We all see it with our eyes. You want to help the people, communities in New York City, you want to help NYPD officers do their job? Stop the flow of guns into New York City,” said de Blasio.