For decades, poverty and its correlates have been criminalized in New York City. Policing and public safety structures may actually make it more difficult to escape poverty by ensnaring individuals facing particular challenges in the criminal justice system, without ever addressing the underlying problems, and then activating an array of ongoing collateral consequences, such as prohibitions from voting, driving, employment, or housing. For example, in New York City, community districts with the highest poverty rates are also among those with the highest jail incarceration rates, with a significant correlation between high jail incarceration rates and rates of school absences, unemployment, and psychiatric hospitalizations found in these same communities.1 The following recommendations for the incoming administration target the structures that leave the many New Yorkers who are experiencing poverty over-policed yet underserved in the areas of education, health care, housing, and economic supports.
Between October 2020 and March 2021, more than eighty-five meetings—including public listening sessions, town halls, and roundtable discussions—were conducted by the NYPD Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative that was formed in response to Executive Order 203. The collaborative, led by the First Deputy Mayor’s Office and including personnel from City Hall, the Police Department, and community leaders, was tasked with generating proposals to reimagine policing in New York City. This work focused largely on collecting and applying the input of individuals and organizations from communities most impacted by racialized policing and poverty.2 Through this process, and in consultation with City Hall, the City Council, and three community co-sponsors, including then-Robin Hood CEO Wes Moore, a robust set of policy recommendations was drafted and then approved by City Council.
The approved plan was an important first step in the reform process, with its wide-ranging scope and responsiveness to many of the problems New Yorkers currently face. However, a financial or legislative commitment to execute the full plan has not yet been made, and more must be done, beyond that plan’s recommendations, to make New York City a more equitable place to live for all New Yorkers. The role of the next administration will involve not only funding and pursuing the commitments laid out in City Council Resolution 1584-2021, which would make certain that the plan built from the input of the community is seen through, but also supplementing it with policies that will further ensure that all New Yorkers experience public safety and equitable policing.3
From Crisis to Opportunity
Introducing "From Crisis to Opportunity: A Policy Agenda for an Equitable NYC"
Policy Recommendations for an Equitable NYC
Building a High-Quality Child Care and Early Learning Infrastructure for New York City
Creating High-Quality, Inclusive, and Equitable Educational Experiences for All of New York City’s Students
Promoting a Rapid, Equitable Economic Recovery from COVID-19 for New York City
Strengthening Housing Stability and Increasing Opportunity for Low-Income Families in New York City
Strengthening New York City’s Nonprofit Human Services Sector
Reimagining a More Equitable Policing and Public Safety System in New York City
The recommendations that follow build upon the work of the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative by centering the need to establish and fund just policies that address the structural challenges currently reinforcing the criminalization of poverty and racialized policing in New York City. These recommendations include:
- Address the criminalization of poverty through budget justice, allocating the necessary funds to provide trauma-informed, streamlined services in low-income communities that have been disproportionately affected by over-policing.
- End racial disparities in police stops through routine, independent audits of stop data and corresponding footage and an overall reduction in unnecessary police encounters.
- Remove police from New York City schools and invest in students’ social, emotional, and behavioral needs through a supportive, holistic, and trauma-informed public health approach to school safety and crisis intervention.
- Ensure accountability for racialized and biased policing through the administration of fair and independent oversight that is centered on addressing the harm caused to the community.
- Address violence through community-centered initiatives that focus on interrupting cycles of violence and supporting those most at risk for involvement with gun violence through a combination of short- and long-term strategies.
The incoming administration will face dueling opportunities and crises in the policing and public safety space including: a public reimagining of what it means to be policed and the role of police in society, and a sizable resurgence of gun violence following many years of decline. The mayor will be provided with a foundational structure from the initiatives outlined in Resolution 1584-2021, but this is just a starting point. Prioritizing and centering investments in New York City’s most vulnerable and underserved communities will be critical to addressing the challenges of not only police legitimacy but also violent crime. In doing so, the current crises in policing and public safety can be addressed, and communities will be provided with tools and resources to break relentless cycles of poverty and criminalization. To work toward this goal, the next mayor should seek:
- full implementation of all initiatives outlined in New York City Council Resolution 1584-2021;
- replacement of the over 5,000 public safety agents in New York City public schools with staff trained and coached in providing direct services, such as social workers, behavior specialists, trauma-informed de-escalation staff, conflict resolution specialists, peacemakers, and school climate and restorative justice staff;
- sufficient, sustained funding and resources to support the NYC Opportunity Agency Navigator program to assist individuals needing access and referrals to resources;
- elimination of any racial or ethnic disparity in who is stopped or searched by police; and
- a decrease in gun violence to pre-pandemic rates, with a resumption of the sustained downward trend seen from the late 1990s to 2020 (777 total shootings with 923 victims in 2019, compared to 1,531 shootings with 1,868 victims in 2020).4
Background and Need
The challenges of poverty, low economic mobility, and racial inequality are all too often exacerbated by the criminal justice system. In New York City, like so many other cities in the United States, poverty is criminalized, and the communities most impacted by poverty are also the most affected by over-policing. The phrase “criminalization of poverty” refers to the practice of funneling low-income individuals into the criminal justice system by utilizing legal responses to conditions that are often correlates of poverty, such as homelessness, mental illness, and addiction. The problems created by this practice are then further compounded through the broad use of fines and fees for civil, misdemeanor criminal, and traffic offenses and the jailing of people who fail to pay. The damage that this criminalization has done to the social fabric of communities across New York City has only increased as the responsibilities and power of law enforcement have grown, and problems related to homelessness, citizenship, mental illness, substance abuse, and access to transportation continue to be met with criminal justice responses. Additionally, policies and practices that enable racialized policing to persist, such as the continued disparate use of stop-and-frisk and police activity in certain public schools, have intensified these challenges.
Current Sentiment among New Yorkers
According to a December 2020 public opinion poll from Robin Hood and Global Strategy Group (GSG), crime and public safety ranked second behind COVID-19 among New Yorkers’ top concerns.5 Most New Yorkers, across racial and ethnic lines, reported that they “usually feel safe” in their neighborhood (81 percent), though some (17 percent) said they “often do not feel safe.” Additionally, most New Yorkers reported feeling that the NYPD keeps them safe (60 percent), although more than a quarter (26 percent) said the NYPD often makes them feel unsafe. The majority of low-income New Yorkers polled said the police keep them safe (66 percent), as did Latinx6 New Yorkers (69 percent). Black New Yorkers were more likely than other groups to respond that the police make them feel unsafe but were still more likely to believe the police keep them safe than not (53 percent keep me safe; 32 percent make me feel unsafe).
Although New Yorkers have generally positive attitudes toward the police, they also support reform and accountability efforts for the NYPD. Reforming policing and curtailing misconduct were top priorities for 56 percent of New Yorkers and a top priority for 61 percent of Black and Latinx New Yorkers. Even a significant portion of New Yorkers with an active duty or retired police officer in their household supported reform (47 percent top priority; 85 percent priority overall).
New Yorkers also support redistributing funds previously set aside for the NYPD to support community programs and services instead. Most believe that investing in community programs has a positive impact on the city’s communities (86 percent agree, including 59 percent strongly agree), and most (over 70 percent) agree that the city should divest from the NYPD and use the money to fund community programs.7
Current Policy Context
On March 25, 2021, the New York City Council voted to ratify a series of police and public safety proposals. These policies were in response to the governor’s Executive Order 203 (EO 203), which was enacted following the killing of George Floyd, and intended to reform and reinvent each of the municipal police forces within the State of New York. The policies included in New York City’s response to EO 203 were organized around five pillars of reform: (1) the decriminalization of poverty; (2) recognition and continual examination of historical and modern-day racialized policing; (3) transparency and accountability; (4) community representation and partnership; and (5) a diverse, resilient, and supported NYPD.
The reform plan submitted by City Hall reflected an important first step in a reform process by facilitating wide-reaching discussions with many segments of the city and identifying problem areas to be addressed. More than eighty-five meetings were held, including public listening sessions, town halls, and roundtable discussions with an array of groups and organizations from communities most impacted by racialized policing and poverty.8
However, City Council Resolution 1584-2021 to adopt the plan is only a first step toward broad, comprehensive reform. Additionally, a limited financial commitment has been made in the current administration’s FY22 budget to execute the full plan; there has been no formal legislation to ensure that each aspect of the plan will be seen through. The role of the next administration will both involve funding and pursuing the commitments laid out in Resolution 1584-2021 and supplementing it with policies, such as those discussed below, that will ensure all New Yorkers can feel safe and supported in their schools and communities and any experiences with the police are fair, equitable, and supportive.
Conditions for Success
If the policy recommendations that follow are to be successfully adopted and enacted with maximal impact, a new administration must work with the City Council to put in place additional conditions:
- Full funding of all initiatives outlined in New York City Council Resolution 1584-2021. The work of the NYPD’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative has laid the initial groundwork for addressing many of the systemic problems in the policing and public safety space, but the full plan requires committed funding.
- Expansion of the breadth of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB)’s authority to investigate allegations of biased policing and profiling and to initiate its own investigations. Broader independent oversight is necessary in order to hold NYPD personnel who have caused harm accountable and ensure that the department works for all New Yorkers.
- Willingness to divest funds from the NYPD budget and invest in public health, education, opportunity, and community-based interventions. Divesting and reinvesting is necessary to switch from a reliance on criminal justice responses and sanctions in addressing problems that stem from conditions of poverty and instead provide much-needed resources to non-carceral approaches.
- Follow through on the current administration’s pledge to expand the Crisis Management System and youth anti-gun violence programming through summer 2022.
1. Address the Criminalization of Poverty through Budget Justice
In New York City, poverty is criminalized, and justice involvement worsens poverty. This creates an inescapable cycle of disadvantage that requires a coordinated response to analyze and interrupt.9 Low-income New Yorkers of color face systemic, intersecting disadvantages that increase the likelihood of their involvement in the criminal justice system, which in turn, worsens the poverty they experience.
FPWA recently reported that the five community districts in New York City with the highest poverty rates were all among the ten community districts with the highest jail incarceration rates; they also reported that communities with high jail incarceration rates experienced high rates of school absences, unemployment, and psychiatric hospitalizations.10 Furthermore, research from the Brennan Center for Justice shows that imprisonment and even a minor conviction record can translate into diminished economic opportunity and deepening racial and economic inequality. They found that time in prison can reduce someone’s lifetime earning potential by more than half—or nearly half a million dollars; even a misdemeanor conviction can translate to a 16 percent drop in lifetime earnings.11
Lost Earning Potential Due to Involvement in the Criminal Justice System, 2017
|Number of People||Annual Average Earnings Loss||Average Lifetime Earnings Loss||Aggregate Annual Earnings Loss|
|Formerly Imprisoned People||7.7 million||52%||$484,400||$5.5 billion|
|People Convicted but Not Imprisoned||$98,800*|
|Felonies||12.1 million||22%||$77.1 billion|
|Misdemeanors||46.8 million||16%||$240.0 billion|
|*In this table, $98,800 represents lifetime earnings lost due to a conviction in general, whether for a felony, a misdemeanor, or another offense. Because of data limitations, this report is not able to offer a more precise estimate.
**Because of potential overlap between categories, the actual annual aggregate loss may be smaller than $372.3 billion.
Source: T. A. Craigie et al., “Conviction, Imprisonment, and Lost Earnings: How Involvement with the Criminal Justice System Deepens Inequality,” Brennan Center for Justice, September 15, 2020, https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/conviction-imprisonment-and-lost-earnings-how-involvement-criminal.
Problems as systemic and entrenched as the interconnectedness of the criminal justice system and poverty will not be remedied quickly or easily. Resolution 1584-2021 included numerous reform plans for beginning to address the criminalization of poverty in New York City, including:
- The City will systematically examine and end policies that lead to over-policing lower-income and people of color communities, perpetuating the cycle of impoverishment and incarceration. These assessments will focus on disparities in enforcement, as well as the disparate impact these policies have on these communities.
- Starting June 1, 2021, the City will create an Ending Poverty to Prison Pipeline initiative to prevent and reduce justice system contact and connect low-income and justice-involved clients and their families with streamlined services.
- The City will standardize service entry-points to develop a “no wrong door” approach. Currently, many health and human services are specialized and siloed, requiring that clients seek out services at multiple agencies to address the full extent of their needs. This process is made worse by time consuming, redundant, and stressful intake practices and conditions that discourage client engagement and a lack of cross-agency collaboration and communication.
- The City will build a trauma-informed health and human services sector to prevent justice system contact due to trauma-related mental health and/or substance use issues, support mental and long-term physical health outcomes, and address trauma experienced by low-income and justice-involved individuals and families.
The plan included many other recommendations centered on the criminalization of poverty in addition to those listed above. However, there has yet to be an accompanying budget or financial or legislative commitment to back up the full scope of this work.12 It is imperative that the incoming mayoral administration ensure that this work be fully implemented and receive sufficient funding and support.
In addition to the majority of individuals in the Robin Hood/GSG poll who agreed that the city should divest from the NYPD and use the money to fund community programs, advocates across the city have also been calling for “budget justice;” which includes investing in social services, programs, and infrastructure in low-income communities and communities of color. Many see divestment from the NYPD budget as a potential source of funding for this work.13
Conversations with New Yorkers as part of the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative further reinforce the need to invest in work that decriminalizes poverty and moves away from criminal justice responses to social problems. For example, during listening sessions, feedback included:
- Police won’t cure poverty. What can we give to the community outside of policing? How can we build the community up outside of policing? What does this community need? If they got it, do you think the crime rate would go down? I think I would start the conversation with a question, “What do they need?” or “Why is this happening?” Understanding the root before curing the branches.
- If a person is afforded opportunities, educational, health care, financial, nutritional, then it is more likely they are going to succeed, however you define success.
- Communities that are well resourced don’t have as many police, but it’s because they have resources and don’t need them.
A plan to begin to address the intersection of racialized policing, poverty, and the criminal justice system in New York City has already been drafted and approved by the City Council. Now, it is only with a new mayor’s support, prioritization, and financial commitment to the policies proposed that long overdue comprehensive, lasting, and systemic change can occur.
2. End Racial Disparities in Police Stops
Despite a substantial decrease in the use of stop-and-frisks over the past decade and an ongoing monitorship that arose out of the Floyd v. City of New York case, where a federal judge ruled that stop-and-frisk practices violated the constitutional rights of minorities in the city, there remain persistent racial disparities in who is targeted by discretionary police stops.14 While neighborhoods with higher rates of poverty typically experience more aggressive policing, the Robin Hood Poverty Tracker found that police are nevertheless more likely to stop Black New Yorkers living in lower-poverty neighborhoods than white or Latinx New Yorkers living in higher-poverty neighborhoods.15
Robin Hood’s Poverty Tracker data show that over a period of approximately four years, using data collected from 2015 to 2020, police stopped one third of all Black New Yorkers or their household members. Whereas official stops data reported by the NYPD rely on the accurate documentation and disclosure of officers, data from the Poverty Tracker capture the often-overlooked community perspective of stops and include interactions that would not necessarily be captured in police statistics. The Poverty Tracker data indicated that police were more likely to stop Black New Yorkers or members of their household (17 percent), compared to white New Yorkers (10 percent), when compared over a one-year period. Furthermore, Black New Yorkers were nearly as likely to report multiple stops within their household as white New Yorkers were to report any stop, over a four-year period.16
Additionally, despite the reforms associated with the Floyd case, multiple surveys of individuals living in heavily policed, high-crime neighborhoods in the city have found youth who have been stopped multiple times over very short periods.17 Many New Yorkers who participated in the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative process reported continuing to feel the effects of stop-and-frisk and over-policing in their communities.
- We still see stop and frisk to this day. We still see targeted policing in vehicular stops.
- When I walk through a deserted South Shore neighborhood at night and see an officer, I feel safe. When one of my Latinx employees does that, she’s asked where she’s going.
Reducing the number of unnecessary police encounters may have measurable impacts on the physical and mental health of the New Yorkers most frequently targeted by discretionary stops. Research conducted in New York City has found police stops to be associated with trauma and anxiety.18 Additionally, and further reiterating the intersection of poverty and the criminal justice system, living in a neighborhood with higher levels of police stops is associated with poor physical health outcomes and the potential to build substantial debt through the accumulation of small tickets or fines.19
To address over-policing, disparate stops, and subsequent trauma caused to New Yorkers, particularly New Yorkers of color, the new mayor should ensure that the NYPD reduces unnecessary police encounters. This includes reducing the practice of discretionary stop and frisk searches conducted on the basis of “reasonable suspicion,” while also monitoring and addressing racial and ethnic disparities in enforcement at the precinct level.20 City Hall can track the data and ensure this is enforced.
The incoming mayor should work with the police commissioner to ensure that the NYPD collects and publishes monthly audits of discretionary stop practices within each precinct, to determine if “reasonable suspicion” standards are being applied appropriately and whether people of color are being disproportionately targeted. External checks, such as randomized audits of body-worn camera footage and stop reports, should be established to ensure stops are accurately and consistently reported. Disparities in stop and frisk activity by race and ethnicity that are greater than 5 percent from the expected value should be investigated, and findings should be presented to a predetermined oversight entity, such as the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), and made publicly available in a format that can be consumed by a layperson.
Additionally, the new mayor should consider prohibiting the use of consent searches by law enforcement in New York City. Consent searches do not require a warrant, probable cause, or reasonable suspicion; instead, a subject voluntarily waives their Fourth Amendment rights, thereby allowing a police officer to perform the search. Data indicate that residents almost always consent to searches (96 percent in Q4 2020), and those who are subject to consent searches are disproportionately people of color (90 percent people of color in Q4 2020).21 It has been suggested elsewhere that residents in over-policed communities are unlikely to feel that they actually have a choice not to consent to these searches.22 Other jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., are currently discussing whether to prohibit these searches altogether.23
3. Remove Police from New York City Schools
The presence of police officers in public schools disproportionately affects low-income communities of color and contributes to not only the criminalization of poverty but also the school-to-prison pipeline. The city’s current commitment to supposedly reduce the police budget and eliminate the NYPD from schools simply transfers supervision of the over 5,000 school safety agents from the NYPD to the city’s Department of Education (DOE). This does not reflect a real divestment from the school safety division, a meaningful commitment to change the culture in schools, or a reallocation of funds to additional social resources and supports needed in many of these schools.24
In New York City, NYPD school safety agents outnumber school social workers at a rate of nearly 4:1.25 According to recent testimony from Advocates for Children, “before schools closed last year due to COVID-19, the NYPD—and not clinically trained mental health professionals—had already intervened in more than 2,250 incidents involving students in emotional crisis, handcuffing some as young as 5 years old. Of the students handcuffed, 58 percent were Black” although only about a quarter of New York City students are Black.26 The New York City FY22 Executive Budget supports an additional 350 social workers, including the restoration of 60 Single Shepard social workers, on top of an additional 150 in the Preliminary Budget and funding for 27 more Community Schools.27 It is imperative that a new administration see that these commitments are enacted and maintained, as well as provide additional support for students’ social, emotional, and mental health (as outlined in the Education section in this project).
Research has also demonstrated that the presence of police in schools not only displaces resources that might better address the social and emotional challenges experienced by many students but also can be harmful for students. For example, a recent study of youth found that being stopped at school was associated with more emotional distress during and after the stop and with more social stigma, and post-traumatic stress disorder, relative to being stopped on the street—which was also disruptive.28
To address the needs of New York City’s youth, particularly in low-income and minority communities, a new administration must follow through on the commitment to remove the NYPD from public schools. Rather than simply transferring supervision of the same roles to DOE, the school safety program should be reconceptualized, with the money instead being invested in providing sufficient resources to support students’ social, emotional, and behavioral needs. This may include:
- Replacing the school safety agent system with a holistic, trauma-informed public health approach to school safety and crisis intervention.
- Investing in staff trained and coached in providing direct services, such as: social workers, behavior specialists, trauma-informed de-escalation staff, conflict resolution specialists, peacemakers, and school climate and restorative justice staff.
The school safety budget exceeds $300 million annually, with funding provided to the NYPD likely through at least the next fiscal year. Other cities, such as Washington, D.C., have also explored the potential to dismantle the school policing infrastructure, with the D.C. Police Reform Commission recommending “eliminating MPD’s school safety division and replacing it with supportive and restorative staff, programs, and resources” as a course of action.29 Numerous other jurisdictions around the country have also committed to similar withdrawals in the past year.30
With the ratification of Resolution 1584-2021, New York City has committed to investing at least $30 million to “ensure every school can effectively support students’ social emotional and behavioral needs with a trauma informed approach.” The new administration must prioritize, follow through on, and fully fund these commitments to remove police from schools and engage in a supportive, trauma-informed approach in its place.
4. Ensure Accountability for Racialized and Biased Policing
The NYPD’s accountability mechanisms, such as the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), have been hamstrung by the police commissioner’s boundless discretion.31 Between January 2014 and May 2020, only one CCRB investigation resulted in the termination of an officer—among hundreds of total case closures—and concurrence rates between the disciplinary actions recommended by the CCRB and those imposed by the police commissioner remain low: In 2019, for cases in which the CCRB recommended “Command Discipline, Formalized Training, or Instructions,” the police commissioner concurred just 51 percent of the time; when the CCRB recommended charges and specifications and the officer was prosecuted by the Administrative Prosecution Unit, the concurrence rate was less than one third (32 percent).32 Concern about these low rates, the non-binding nature of the recently implemented disciplinary matrix (which provides guidelines on presumptive penalties for police misconduct), and local, national, and global calls for increased police accountability have led to new and revived calls for checks on the commissioner’s final disciplinary authority.33
The reforms included in Resolution 1584-2021, as part of the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Plan, include that “NYPD will make public ‘deviation letters’ that set out the police commissioner’s specific rationale for exercising his discretion to deviate from guidelines set by the new disciplinary matrix,” but the commissioner still retains the ability to deviate as he sees fit under §434 of the New York City Charter and §14-115 of the N.Y.C. Administrative Code. Additionally, the reform plan included Intro. 2212 to give the CCRB authority to investigate allegations of biased policing and profiling and a commitment to proposing legislation to increase the CCRB’s authority to initiate investigations on its own.
Many New Yorkers who participated in the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative process discussed the continued need for stronger and more transparent accountability measures.
- We need more than just a website with details, we need to let the community know that you’ll publicly make sure that wrongs are being dealt with.
- You continue to hear about accountability, transparency, and trust. The chief says that officers were disciplined. The public has no visibility into it, and so trust is not restored.
- CCRB has little to no power—the Mayor has put some power back. But even the way that CCRB membership comes about is suspect. It needs the people who have day to day encounters with the NYPD—CCRB as it stands should be changed to encompass real New Yorkers.
To address the problems of accountability within the NYPD and ensure that when harm is caused by police, it is appropriately addressed, the new administration should proactively support a New York City Charter amendment to remove the police commissioner’s final authority over discipline and undertake the following reforms:
- Giving final disciplinary authority to the CCRB for all complaints within its jurisdiction.
- Expanding the jurisdiction of the CCRB to include complaints against nonuniform members of service, including school safety agents, traffic enforcement agents, civilian employees, and volunteer auxiliary police.
- Inclusion of at least one individual from New York City with a criminal justice history on the CCRB.
- Removal of NYPD disciplinary trials—which are governed by Title 38, Chapter 15 of the Rules of the City of New York and §14-115 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York—from NYPD jurisdiction, to the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH).
- Automatic checks on the disciplinary system such that if more than 5 percent of penalties imposed deviate from the presumptive penalty range prescribed in the NYPD disciplinary matrix, a review of the matrix is triggered.
Many of these reforms have been advocated for by organizations, such as the Fortune Society, and collaboratives, such as REFORM NYPD NOW, which includes the Association to Benefit Children, BRC, Center for Employment Opportunities, Children’s Aid Society, East Harlem Scholars Academy, Fortune Society, Goddard Riverside, Good Shepherd Services, Grand Street Settlement, LSA Family Health Service, New Settlement Apartments, Queens Community House, Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center, Sunnyside Community Services, and Women in Need (Win), among others.34
By enhancing accountability structures within the NYPD and for individual officers, the low-income communities and communities of color that are disproportionately subjected to over-policing and aggressive policing can be better served. Further, by enforcing swift and consistent discipline that is harm-centered and communicated to the public, trust and public safety can both improve.
5. Address Violence through Community-Centered Initiatives
Since 2020, New York City has seen a steep rise in gun violence after having experienced its lowest levels of violent crime in over six decades.35 As of the second weekend in May 2021, there were over 500 shooting victims in New York City, reflecting a higher toll at that point than in any of the past ten years. Criminologists have speculated that this trend will not simply abate when the city fully reopens, due to the numerous theorized causes behind the violence, including the disproportionate economic strain, death toll, and job disruption of the pandemic in communities already struggling with gun violence and the challenge of disrupting the cycle of retaliation from individual shootings.36
It will be critical for the incoming mayoral administration to have a clear plan for how to address violence in the city and, based on input from impacted individuals during the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, a willingness to invest in community-based programming and resources and street-level outreach rather than relying solely on increases in policing. Said differently, the current circumstances should not be seen as justification for further expansion of the NYPD budget but as a reason to make long-term investments in the most-impacted communities, to interrupt current cycles of violence, and reduce the likelihood of upswings in the future.
Community-based programming is well suited to address the current parallel issues of low trust in the police and entrenched problems of violence. For one, community-based organizations are more likely to understand the problems, culture, and nuances of particular areas and be better positioned to respond to many of the issues that occur. Targeted investment by the city can help communities build agency and support the development of local leadership and coordination by fostering relationships and community participation and building the local infrastructure.37 Lastly, scholarly research has found evidence to indicate that the expansion of local nonprofit organizations had a measurable effect in reducing violence in major cities during the previous crime decline (1990s to 2010s).38
One model that New York City is already using successfully is the Crisis Management System (CMS), an evidence-based approach to reducing and interrupting gun violence and strengthening neighborhood safety that has been effectively implemented in numerous areas within the city. Within CMS is programming based on the Cure Violence model, which aims to interrupt violence using public health approaches, such as detecting and interrupting conflicts, identifying and treating those at highest risk, and changing social norms.39 A 2017 assessment of Cure Violence in the South Bronx and East New York, Brooklyn reported a 37–50 percent reduction in gun injuries in two communities and a 63 percent reduction in shootings in one community.40 Further, a 2015 study found an 18 percent reduction in killings across thirteen New York City Cure Violence sites, while control sites experienced a 69 percent increase during the same time period.41
To address the ongoing problem of gun violence through a community-centered approach, the new administration should fully implement and follow through on the city’s current commitments to expand CMS. This includes the current administration’s June 2020 pledge to grow the program, as well as the commitments within Resolution 1584-2021, which include:
- The City will deepen its commitment to interrupting violence through expanded community-based interventions.
- The NYPD will expand the Community Solutions Program.
- The City will pilot the Advance Peace Model, a new approach to helping youth who are at risk for involvement with gun violence.
Within these reforms, the city stated that it would “triple the workforce from today’s figures by Summer 2022, which means the City will provide at least $25 million in funding each year. This funding will also support increased money for the Anti-Gun Violence Youth Employment Program.”42 This pledge will ultimately fall to the incoming administration to see through.
Additionally, the city must also address the chronic problem of violence by fundamentally shifting how it approaches public safety in communities. Rather than predominantly relying on police to react to issues of violence and then the carceral responses that follow, the new administration should be investing in long-term strategies that prevent engagement in crime and violence across lifetimes. For example, a continued investment and commitment to programs such as the Nurse–Family Partnership, which has over forty years of evaluations indicating significant, lasting benefits for children, including an 80 percent lower rate of being convicted of a crime for program participants, compared to individuals who did not receive the intervention, as well as lower behavioral problems and substance use and higher academic achievement, reflect the promise of cost-effective, preventive approaches.43
Together, programs that respond to and interrupt patterns of violence, such as Cure Violence and school-based restorative justice programming, and preventive interventions that invest in long term outcomes can increase safety and reduce violence in the near and long term through community-centered approaches and a reduction in traditional police responses and the carceral system.
The authors would like to acknowledge the work of Arva Rice (NY Urban League), Jennifer Jones Austin (FPWA), Emily Miles (FPWA), and Donovan Williams (FPWA) in developing many of the policies proposed by the NYPD Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. Their insights and recommendations during that process helped to inform many of the ideas presented here, and we are thankful for their contributions.
Click here to view Policing Initiatives Outlined in New York City Council Resolution 1584-2021.
- “Ending the Poverty to Prison Pipeline,” FPWA, April 2019, https://www.fpwa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/FPWAs-Ending-the-Poverty-to-Prison-Pipeline-Report-2019-FINAL.pdf.
- A full description of the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative’s process, and the community engagement process and participants is available at https://www1.nyc.gov/site/policereform/community-engagement/community-engagement.page.
- “Resolution 1584-2021: Adopting a plan pursuant to State Executive Order Number 203,” New York City Council, March 25, 2021, .https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4890502&GUID=2CB9D744-6371-434F-8331-4A923FF529AB&Options=ID|Text|&Search=police.
- B. Chapman, “New York City Homicides and Shootings Rose Dramatically in 2020,” Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2021, www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-city-homicides-and-shootings-rose-dramatically-in-2020-11610055243; J. Chaffin, “New Yorkers Fear Return of ‘Bad Old Days’ after Shootings Surge,” Financial Times, July 17, 2020, www.ft.com/content/a444b43e-ba40-48b5-a064-fa51c591cc32.
- Robin Hood commissioned Global Strategy Group (GSG) to conduct a public opinion poll on priorities for New Yorkers. GSG oversampled low-income New Yorkers to ensure the needs of the highest-impacted community were well represented. See “New York City Issues Research Finding,” Global Strategy Group, January 26, 2021, https://globalstrategygroup.app.box.com/s/wmpmhza15pr3gom7c20qlpx65dom55eq.
- The sources consulted for From Crisis to Opportunity: A Policy Agenda for an Equitable NYC used a variety of terms in collecting data about ethnic identity, such as Hispanic, Latino, Latinx, or Spanish origin. Some of the sources collected data using only one of these terms and reported their results under one term, while others collected data using several of the terms, but reported their data using only one term. This project uses Latinx universally in referring to the identities expressed in these data sets.
- Most agreed that the city should divest from the NYPD and use the money to fund community programs, regardless of whether framing about the importance of effective policing was included: 73 percent agreed that the city should divest from the NYPD and use the money to fund community programs with policing language, and 70 percent when the policing language was not included.
- Descriptions of the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, and the community engagement process and participants are available at https://www1.nyc.gov/site/policereform/community-engagement/community-engagement.page.
- “Ending the Poverty to Prison Pipeline,” FPWA, April 2019, https://www.fpwa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/FPWAs-Ending-the-Poverty-to-Prison-Pipeline-Report-2019-FINAL.pdf.
- T. A. Craigie et al., “Conviction, Imprisonment, and Lost Earnings: How Involvement with the Criminal Justice System Deepens Inequality,” Brennan Center for Justice, 2020, https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/EconomicImpactReport_pdf.pdf.
- While some of the specific initiatives were clearly allocated funding in the FY22 budget, the financial support for others remains uncertain. Further, according to the public-facing “NYC Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Initiative Tracker,” as of July 6, 2021 many of these initiatives are in the planning phase and/or pending approval of a proposed approach. Tracker data available for download at https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/policereform/downloads/PUBLIC-NYPD-Reform-EO203-Tracker-7-6-21.pdf.
- “NYC Budget Justice,” Communities United for Police Reform, July 1, 2020, www.changethenypd.org/nycbudgetjustice.
- Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al., 959 F. Supp. 2d 540 (S.D.N.Y. 2013)
- M. Maury, et al, , “Spotlight on Policing: Despite the End of Stop-and-Frisk, Black New Yorkers Continue to be Over-Policed,” Robin Hood Foundation and the Center for Poverty and Social Policy, Columbia University Population Research Center, November 2020, https://production-tcf.imgix.net/app/uploads/2015/07/13000000/Keefe_TwoViewsOnTheFailureOfPolicing.pdf.
- Figures presented reflect four years of data, in an update to those originally presented in ibid.
- K. Turney and S. Wakefield, “Criminal Justice Contact and Inequality,” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 5, no. 1 (2019): 1–23.
- A. Geller, et al. “Aggressive Policing and the Mental Health of Young Urban Men,” American Journal of Public Health 104, no. 12 (2014) : 2321–27; K. Turney and S. Wakefield, “Criminal Justice Contact and Inequality,” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 5, no. 1 (2019): 1–23.
- A. Sewell and K. Jefferson, “Collateral Damage: The Health Effects of Invasive Police Encounters in New York City,” Journal of Urban Health 93, suppl. 1 (2016): 42–67; A. Sewell, et al. “Living Under Surveillance: Gender, Psychological Distress, and Stop-Question-and Frisk Policing in New York City,” Social Science and Medicine 159, no. 6 (2016): 1–13; K. Turney and S. Wakefield, “Criminal Justice Contact and Inequality,” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 5, no. 1 (2019): 1–23.
- While the NYPD Monitor currently reviews some of this information, such as through audits completed by RAND, this information is not at the precinct level, where corrective action could occur, nor is it easily consumable by the public. See for example, Peter L. Zimroth, NYPD Monitor, Letter to the Honorable Analisa Torres, January 7, 2020, http://nypdmonitor.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Monitors-Corrected-Tenth-Report.pdf.
- NYPD consent search data is available for download on the NYPD website, https://www1.nyc.gov/site/nypd/stats/reports-analysis/consent-to-search.page.
- For example, research indicates that people comply with searches for social rather than informational reasons; while individuals stopped may be instructed that they have the right to refuse a search, the social context and authority of the police creates pressure to comply. See R. Sommers and V. Bohns, “The Voluntariness of Voluntary Consent: Consent Searches and the Psychology of Compliance,” Yale Law Journal 128, no. 7 (2019): 1962–2033, https://www.yalelawjournal.org/pdf/SommersBohns_w4cmjkwe.pdf.
- The recommendation included in the DC Police Reform Commission Report states: “The Council should modify Section 110 of Act 23-336 (“Limitations on Consent Searches”) by prohibiting all consent searches—warrantless searches permitted based solely on the consent of the individual whose person or property is searched—and, in criminal cases, should require the exclusion of any evidence obtained from a consent search.” See “Decentering Police to Improve Public Safety: A Report of the DC Police Reform Commission,” DC Police Reform Commission, April 1,2021, dcpolicereform.com/.
- The FY22 budget includes the total School Safety budget by $19 million over FY21, through the relative increase in largely the result of FY21 overtime reductions. The budget includes funding for all 5,322 civilian and 189 uniforms full time salaried school safety agents, the same number of total positions that were in the FY21 budget. “Report of the Finance Division on the Fiscal 2022 Preliminary Budget and the Fiscal 2021 Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report for the New York Police Department,” Council of the City of New York, March 16, 2021 https://council.nyc.gov/budget/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/03/056-NYPD.pdf.
- D. Yuster, “Testimony to Be Delivered to the New York City Council Committee on Education,” Advocates for Children of New York, February 18, 2021, www.advocatesforchildren.org/sites/default/files/on_page/NP_testimony_school_safety_bills_021821.pdf?pt=1.
- “The City of New York Executive Budget Fiscal Year 2022: Message of the Mayor,” Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget, April 26, 2021, www1.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/mm4-21.pdf. ; “Report of the Finance Division on the Fiscal 2022 Preliminary Budget and the Fiscal 2021 Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report for the Department of Education,” Council of the City New York, March 23, 2021, https://council.nyc.gov/budget/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/03/DOE-Expense-.pdf.
- Dylan B. Jackson et al., “Police Stops Among At-Risk Youth: Repercussions for Mental Health,” Journal of Adolescent Health, 65 (2019): 627.
- “Decentering Police to Improve Public Safety: A Report of the DC Police Reform Commission,” DC Police Reform Commission, April 1,2021, dcpolicereform.com/.
- Chavez, N. “A Movement to Push Police out of Schools Is Growing Nationwide. Here Is Why.” CNN, June 28, 2020, www.cnn.com/2020/06/28/us/police-out-of-schools-movement/index.html.
- M. Simon, et al., “What It Looks Like When the New York City Police Commissioner Has ‘Unchecked Power’ Over Officer Discipline,” ProPublica, December 11, 2020, https://projects.propublica.org/nypd-unchecked-power/; E. Umansky and M. Simon, “The NYPD Is Withholding Evidence From Investigations Into Police Abuse,” ProPublica, August 17, 2020, www.propublica.org/article/the-nypd-is-withholding-evidence-from-investigations-into-police-abuse.
- See “Civilian Complaint Review Board Annual Report: 2019,” Civilian Complaint Review Board, 2019, https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/ccrb/downloads/pdf/policy_pdf/annual_bi-annual/2019CCRB_AnnualReport.pdf.
- M. Simon and E. Umansky, “Calls Increase for NYPD Commissioner to Be Stripped of Absolute Authority Over Officer Discipline,” ProPublica, December 22, 2020, www.propublica.org/article/calls-increase-for-nypd-commissioner-to-be-stripped-of-absolute-authority-over-officer-discipline.
- “REFORM NYPD NOW,” Union Settlement, https://unionsettlement.org/reformnypdnow/.
- T. Closson, “The Spike in Shootings During the Pandemic May Outlast the Virus,” New York Times, May 14, 2021, www.nytimes.com/2021/05/14/nyregion/shootings-nyc-covid.html.
- L. Sakala,et al. “Public Investment in Community-Driven Safety Initiatives: Landscape Study and Key Considerations,” Urban Institute, November 2018, https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/99262/public_investment_in_community-driven_safety_initiatives_1.pdf.
- P. Sharkey, et al., “Community and the crime decline: The causal effect of local nonprofits on violent crime decline,” American Sociological Review 82, no. 6 (2017): 1240.
- “Violence: A Health Issue,” NYC Health, www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/neighborhood-health/anti-violence.page.
- S. Delgado et al., “The Effects of Cure Violence Programs in the South Bronx and East New York, Brooklyn,” John Jay Research and Evaluation Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, October 10, 2017, johnjayrec.nyc/2017/10/02/cvinsobronxeastny/.
- J. Butts et al., “Effectiveness of the Cure Model in New York City,” John Jay Research and Evaluation Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, January 16, 2015, johnjayrec.nyc/2015/01/16/researchbrief201501/.
- “Resolution 1584-2021: Adopting a plan pursuant to State Executive Order Number 203,” New York City Council, March 25, 2021, .https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4890502&GUID=2CB9D744-6371-434F-8331-4A923FF529AB&Options=ID|Text|&Search=police.
- “Nurse–Family Partnership Literature Review,” NYC Health, www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/ms/nfp-literature-review.pdf.