Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday morning that this weekend New Yorkers will see police and community leaders converge on areas hit hard by gun violence these last few weeks, especially in Upper Manhattan.
"We will take back our streets in Harlem and all over our city," said de Blasio at a news conference on Friday morning.
At East 143rd Street and Lenox Avenue, where two nighttime shootings occurred on July 4th, NYPD officers will be joined by violence interrupters who will be walking the beat with them, according to de Blasio.
A larger "take-back-the-block effort," as de Blasio put it, will be implemented in the next few weeks, and a youth town hall will be held in Harlem next Friday. "Grassroots, anti-violence effort based on very successful models from recent years of community members, making very clear that their blocks, their community belongs to them and it needs to be a safe place. So, we will break the cycle of violence."
Iesha Sekou, president of Street Corner Resources in Harlem and a seasoned violence interrupter, joined the mayor for his press conference, as did State Senator Michael Benjamin.
"If you live in Harlem, you're a community leader," Benjamin said, urging New Yorkers to come out and engage each other. He added that the community has an obligation to assist but also check the power of the NYPD. "Our community pays their salary," he said, insisting that any partnership between the police and communities "has to be a true partnership, not one based on fearmongering."
Over the past week, the NYPD has blamed the spike in shootings and murders on police reforms and COVID-related jail releases, claims that are not backed up by any data. Asked repeatedly about why his police department is spreading misinformation, Mayor de Blasio has dodged the questions.
"Look, I understand that some folks in the police department are focusing on specific problems that they see," de Blasio said, when asked about the discrepancies on Friday. "I don't necessarily see the same prioritization of the problems, but I know they're speaking from what they believe to be true, and they're also speaking about the bigger impacts not just the individual statistics."
Sekou, who said she would personally be on East 143rd and Lenox this weekend, described how she deescalates confrontations.
"It's not as easy as just saying 'stop the violence,'" she said. "And you have to have other people in the community who are witnessing that to support the act not happening. That's key. Because the more people that are supporting the violence act, the cameras up, videotaping the negative behavior, the more the people who are ready to fight or shoot become enraged, and it escalates."
A spokesperson for de Blasio said the tropical storm hitting the city Friday and early Saturday shouldn't pose a problem in getting this initiative up and running.
"The Police Department has the necessary gear to keep their officers safe during the storm," said the spokesperson. "Not their first time working in bad weather."