May 23, 2016

"I Don't Want Pity, I Want Results"

The New York Times has published a sobering account of mass shootings in America. It is a must read for those of us working to reduce violence across the country and those of us who need to understand the topic in more granular detail. According to the article, entitled "A Drumbeat of Multiple Shootings, But America Isn't Listening,"  shootings involving four or more victims occur each day in America on average. Yet, the 462 persons who died as a result of these shootings is only a fraction of the 11,000 killed by gun fire each year and rarely get noticed.

The title of this post is a quote from the daughter of a 56 year-old African-American man was shot and killed as a bystander in a feud between rivals. It speaks to the critical need for law enforcement and communities to work together to eliminate the scourge of gun violence and bring perpetrators of gun violence to account. The authors highlight that only half of the mass shootings they examined resulted in an arrest or conviction. A shockingly low clearance rate.

There is also the need for honest dialogue and action in communities where shootings are occurring at higher rates. In the African-American where, as the article highlights, half of all gun violence victims and attackers reside the need to confront the problem of gun violence is urgent. In New York City there are several efforts focused on reducing violence that show some promise. Two examples are the Save Our Streets programs run by our sister projects in the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn. Recently the New York City Mayor's Office launched a new initiative focused on making the city's pubic housing developments with the most violence safer. Public housing residents in these developments experience more violence and shootings than the rest of the city. A stubborn disparity that has persisted even as overall crime has dropped to historic lows in New York since the mid-1990s.While in the early stages, the Mayor's Action Plan (MAP) is using data and collaboration in ways that research suggest can reduce violence and improve perceptions of safety in a community. Through targeted law enforcement, environmental design changes and improved maintenance and by building local collaborations with tenant leaders, local organizations and the police MAP seeks to drive down violence and shootings in public housing.

As we rightly debate the policies of mass incarceration and the terrible consequences of America's legacy of racism and indifference to communities of color, we must also keep in mind that community members, especially victims of crime, want results. They want both justice that is fair and justice that is effective. We can and must do more to end the senseless and preventable deaths and injuries that result from gun violence in America.

By Christopher Watler, Project Director- Harlem Community Justice Center