Date: July 2014
Originally Published: Huffington Post
Historically, as temperatures rise, gun violence follows. Although we don’t have to accept this as inevitable, that claim remains true in many areas of our city this year. So far, gun violence is up 8 percent, with 611 people shot within the five boroughs. Cities across the nation struggle with this pandemic — Chicago has lost dozens of residents to gun violence this month alone. But these shootings aren’t simply statistics. Some of these gun violence victims are my constituents; all of them are our neighbors and friends.
Like me, City Council members from across the nation are the most local point of government contact residents have when these tragedies occur. We are often among the first to arrive on the scene, to comfort grieving families, to ensure the family and those affected have what they need to survive. We assist law enforcement when needed and speak out against these senseless acts.
I have long advocated for real, concerted efforts to end gun violence in our city. As the co-chair of the three-year-old Council Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, I have worked with many others to find ways to help end this pandemic by using a multilayered approach, which includes the collaboration of city agencies, the administration and violence-interrupter groups. Without an equal push to create policy changes, law enforcement adjustments and community change (from addressing mental health to employment), the fight against gun violence will be a lost battle.
The Task Force has received strong support because it utilizes proven strategies beyond increasing the number of law enforcement officers, including placing violence-interrupter groups such as Man UP!, SOS and I Love My Life on the ground to prevent the spread of shootings among those most at risk, often our young people. These efforts are supplemented by wraparound services, from mental health services to employment assistance. So far the Task Force has worked in five neighborhoods that have experienced some of the highest shootings incidents. We will expand the Task Force’s reach now that the Council has allocated additional funds for anti-violence initiatives.
Additionally, I’ve concentrated on improving police-community relations through passage of the Community Safety Act. The CSA established the first enforceable ban on bias-based profiling by the NYPD, and established the Department’s first Inspector General. During the two-year fight to pass the CSA, I consulted with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Washington D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier and others about ending the abuse of Stop, Question and Frisk or similar polices in their cities, and discussed best practices to ending gun violence.
I realized these best practice conversations were not happening between local legislators across the country in a substantial way, which is why I launched the National Network to Combat Gun Violence, a network of local elected officials — Council members, aldermen, municipal supervisors, selectmen and other local legislative officials — dedicated to ending gun violence in their communities.
Going forward, my hope is that the Network will be a forum to:
- consult with members across the nation on existing best practices and challenges;
- develop reports elaborating on findings from member cities;
- hold information-sharing conference calls; and convene annual summits in host cities.
Currently the Network is comprised of more than 50 local elected officials from across the country, and membership grows by the day. We know that innovative, successful strategies to combat gun violence are being pioneered, implemented and replicated at the local level in cities both large and small, and I look forward to sharing program models that have been effective in New York, like those employed by on-the-ground organizations with the resources needed to stop these incidents before they occur. It is time we work together to solve this pervasive national problem, and develop ways every city in our country can effectively combat gun violence.
New York City Councilman Jumaane D. Williams is the Council’s deputy leader and co-chair of its Task Force to Combat Gun Violence.