As gun violence continues to roil NYC, with 18 people shot in 24 hours Monday, anti-gun violence leaders and elected officials say there's a way to reduce the violence—but there's no one quick fix.
In June, shootings increased 130 percent citywide compared to that month last year. In response, Mayor Bill de Blasio rolled out a $10 million boost for Cure Violence sites and a targeted anti-violence initiative in Harlem over the weekend. On Tuesday morning, de Blasio reiterated "bringing together police and community" to address the shootings uptick, and emphasized the health and economic crises due to COVID-19 the city faces.
But anti-gun violence activist and pastor in East Flatbush, Pastor Gil Monrose, said the city needs a fuller response to gun violence, similar to the all-hands-on-deck approach to the coronavirus.
"It's not a one-response," Monrose, an activist with the 67th Precinct Clergy Council and the faith director for Brooklyn Borough President, told Gothamist. "We can't continue to work in different silos. We must have a full plan for New York City."
"Just like we have a plan for COVID-19, we're moving in phases, and every department moving, we need a specific plan, specifically for violence on a federal level, the state level, the city level—[a] multifaceted approach of non-profit organizations, clergy-led groups, and gun violence interrupters," Monrose added.
In the wake of the fatal shooting of a one-year-old boy during a family cookout in Bed-Stuy, leaders joined at the park Monday to call for shootings to stop, including various clergy; elected officials like Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and Councilmember Robert Cornegy; and violence interrupters of Cure Violence groups from across the city.
Williams noted the "diverse opinions and politics" that had been put aside during the press conference Monday to come together to mourn the toddler's death.
"We should have anticipated this," Williams said. "Everything in these communities has been made worse by the pandemic, everything. Why did you think gun violence [would] be different?"
Adams blamed a lack of urgency at the city, state, and federal level—as well as gun supplies from other states into NYC.
"This is a sickness," Adams said.
Cornegy pointed to under-education, unemployment, and racist policies.
Others leaders in violence prevention called for a need for more sites for what are known as "Cure Violence" groups—which mediate conflict in an attempt to stop shooters from lashing out, and connect people to resources, from education to legal assistance, or funds for violence interrupters to expand to 24-hour shifts.
Freddie Charles, a program supervisor for the Bronx violence interrupter group Release the Grip, told Gothamist he believes more sites doing mediation work like his team would reduce the shootings.
"If they had more sites, and they hired people who are credible within those areas, it'd bring down the violence within those areas," he said. Release the Grip, led by those who grew up in the area the group covers south of Claremont Park, mediates conflicts before the NYPD is involved.
"The situation might be over with before they come, and even if they come," he said. "It's not as hostile because we're there, we're working with the people that have conflicts."
Some research has shown a decline in shooting incidents in neighborhoods where cure violence efforts have been undertaken. At the cure violence sites Save Our Streets in the South Bronx and Man Up! in East New York, the programs coincided with a 37 percent and 50 percent drop in gun injuries, respectively, a 2017 study found. Meanwhile, neighborhoods without Cure Violence sites at the time of the study, Flatbush and Harlem, saw a 29 percent and 5 percent decline in gun injuries, respectively.
"It's not a quick fix," added Tara Brown-Arnell, the director of Bronx Connect, the group that oversees Release the Grip.
She believes the months of lockdown during the coronavirus stay-at-home policies have likely exacerbated the gun violence.
Brown-Arnell said Bronx Connect's Release the Grip is attempting to stretch beyond its typical target areas "to present resources, job information, anything that we can do, to show support, to show hope, and to show alternatives to what whey believe is currently going on in their neighborhood."
Though that requires stretching existing resources further. In addition to the $10 million recently allocated, last year the de Blasio administration and City Council set aside $36 million for Cure Violence and crisis management efforts against gun violence.
After decades of disenfranchisement, housing disparities, segregation, she added, "This is, I think, what we deal with when we tell [a group of people] that they are not important and that they don't matter."
Erica Ford, the head of Life Camp Inc., a gun-violence prevention group in Queens, said trauma and pain in communities hasn't been properly addressed.
"Undealt pain and trauma comes out ugly no matter where it's coming out at," she said. "We have to do as much as we can as a community and as a city to save our children's lives."
With reporting contributed by WNYC's Yasmeen Khan.