Ahead of Thursday’s crime report for the first half of 2023, NYPD executives told amNewYork Metro that New York’s Finest are striving to combat the onslaught of gun-violence in the Big Apple through a long-term, preventative response that gives at-risk youth summer jobs within the force.
The summer is off to a bloody start, with a 15-year-old being among those shot to death while a 5-year-old and a 12-year-old were left injured, just over the last several weeks alone. Although shooting statistics suggest that violence has declined this year, the public perception over public safety has not been bolstered by the numbers. This is being made more dire by the gang recruitment of teen trigger pullers.
According to Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael Lipetri, 11% of people cuffed for illegal gun possession in 2023 are under the age of 18.
Police brass say they are looking to prevent further generations from falling into gang traps by scooping them off the streets and working alongside them in the largest Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) to date.
“This program saved my life. I grew up in Brooklyn, a high crime community and I could have went either way,” Executive Director of Community Engagement Alden Foster said. “We’ve taken a thousand kids off the street, just in this one program.”
With 700 youths being orientated into the program on July 5 and another 300 set to be welcomed on July 10, police officials are hoping that by teaching the youngsters a trade, and forming a mutual bond, they will be able to prevent kids from falling into a life riddled with bullets and bloodshed.
The program lasts six weeks and the teens involved are recommended by community organizations, through which time they are paid to learn everything from being an electrician, mechanic, or even aviation skills. Special slots were also included for those who are hard of hearing, have vision loss, or wheelchair bound, in an attempt to ensure that no one is left behind.
In addition to crime prevention, the NYPD is also looking to shed the perception that it keeps the community at arm’s length as it had in decades past. Deputy Commissioner of community affairs Mark Stewart spoke candidly about emerging from the shadows of the 1980s in order to regain the trust of New Yorkers.
“I came on the job in 1984, so I go way, way back. And the jump that the NYPD has made in the outreach of our communities and with the kids, is completely unbelievable,” Stewart said. “We’re transparent. It’s not like the old days, it’s a new department. And the only way that we can do that is to have these programs and have these mentorships.”
Funded by NYC Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Keith Howard, the summer youth employment program is a lengthy, time-consuming approach to shielding the city from the ongoing bullet storm. However, as blood continues to be spilled and gang recruitment pulls in younger and younger teens, the NYPD hopes that it will be able to make further footing in the war on crime by both cuffing those responsible for the crimes and redirecting those youngsters before they pick up a firearm.