Community participation and increased police presence among steps to reduce New York City violence

Steve Bittenbender

July 13, 2020

Originally published in Washington Examiner on July 13, 2020.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined a series of steps the city will take to quell a recurrence of the violence that gripped various neighborhoods last weekend and led to dozens of people shot and 10 deaths.

Part of that will include an increase of police activity in “hot spots,” especially foot patrols, but it also involves community leaders stepping out as well.

“That is the key to this,” he said. “Community leaders, community organizations, walking with police officers, showing common cause.”

Iesha Sekou, the CEO of Street Corner Resources, said community involvement already has helped stop one possibly violent event.

After she and other organizers returned from painting Black Lives Matter in front of Trump Tower on Thursday, she was alerted to a gang-related incident happening in front of a barbershop. That led to her and others coming to the area.

“Because everybody as a community came out, we were able to interrupt a situation that could have ended in a fatality, and that was gang-related,” she said. “We were able to stop it.”

Among the initiatives that will be rolled out are pop-up basketball clinics that the community groups, the New York City Police Department and the Department of Parks and Recreation will participate in. Next Friday, the city will hold a youth town hall to hear from teens.

Beyond that, de Blasio said he wants to see “take back the block” movements to stop violence in the weeks ahead to keep the city streets safe for everyone.

“The best way anything ever changes, the only way you see profound change [is] from the grassroots up,” the mayor said.

State Sen. Brian Benjamin, D-Harlem, who helped put together the effort to curb the violence, said he would like to see the business community and individuals help as well.

“I don't think it all falls on the city,” he said. “I think we should be calling on a number of our wealthy individuals to step up and help. So that's part of the conversation that we've been having in our Harlem community policing task force, is figuring out ways to leverage outside donations to help as well.”

The presence of Tropical Storm Fay, which is expected to hit the city late Friday, may also complicate matters for city leaders this weekend, but officials said they will be ready.

Deanna Criswell, the city’s emergency management commissioner, said the emergency operations center has been activated through Saturday and officials will be meeting virtually to deal with anything the storm delivers.