In the hours after a deadly shooting in Canarsie on Friday, as NYPD officers searched in vain for a gunman, a group of violence interrupters fanned out across the Breukelen Houses with a different mission: Find the friends of the 25-year-old victim, Isiah Bowman, to offer support, cool tempers and discourage retaliation.

“We brought in our team from Bed Stuy and East New York and put boots on the ground to talk individuals off the ledge,” said Richard Muhammed, who directs the crisis intervention group Man Up!

But he lamented the lack of manpower available: "Just visibly being there is half of the solution. If we had another shift, or another partial shift, that could change things.”

The violence interrupters – often local community members who were previously incarcerated – are part of the Crisis Management System, a network of city-funded nonprofit operators that seek to de-escalate conflicts and direct individuals to support services.

Mayor Eric Adams has touted the approach as key to curbing gun violence, pledging to bring the teams to every neighborhood at high risk for shootings. On the campaign trail, he said he would find $500 million in savings to redirect to the prevention programs.

But in his first budget as mayor, Adams and the City Council kept funding flat for the Crisis Management System. The current $100 million allocation will remain the same as last year, according to a City Hall spokesperson. After expanding to several new precincts in the last fiscal year, it’s unclear which – if any – neighborhoods will be next in line for the program.

“The mayor had his blueprint — he said he wanted to expand this crisis management strategy, so why is it sitting stagnant?” asked Tiffany Cabán, one of six Council members who voted against the budget on Monday night.

The spending plan will also keep NYPD funding flat, after Council members rejected the mayor’s push to add roughly $200 million to the policing budget. But violence interrupters note that the Crisis Management System’s annual budget accounts for a fraction of the NYPD's operating budget of roughly $6 billion.

Several pointed to Canarsie as an instructive example. The neighborhood was among the first to welcome an NYPD anti-gun unit unveiled by Adams earlier this year. But more than two years after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he would open a crisis management site in the Brooklyn neighborhood, the city has yet to set it up.

We have not been funded to do it, so what you see is us working off of fumes.
K. Bain, executive director of the anti-violence group Community Capacity Development

“On paper we’re positioned to have two groups working in Canarsie,” said K. Bain, the executive director of the anti-violence group Community Capacity Development. “In reality, we have not been funded to do it, so what you see is us working off of fumes.”

A co-architect of the city’s Crisis Management System, Bain has watched as officials have increasingly embraced the model in public, while tangible support has remained in limbo.

After the Bloomberg administration put $20 million into the program, Bain said he spent years leaning on de Blasio to properly fund the system. The pressure has paid off, he said, bringing national attention to the program, while helping to combat a rise in shooting.

When President Joe Biden visited New York City earlier this year, his second stop – after a trip to NYPD headquarters – was a Queens elementary school, where he met with Bain and others to promise additional funding for violence interrupters.

There are now more than 60 providers under the crisis management program, which includes other services in addition to violence interrupters, such as school conflict mediators and a jobs program for those at risk of gun violence.

But even as officials praise the policing alternative, the city’s system remains plagued by procurement and contracting issues that frequently get in the way of the work, according to several violence interrupters.

“We’ve inherited this monster of red tape and bureaucracy,” said one worker, who asked for anonymity to avoid professional blowback. “The NYPD doesn’t have to tell their employees that they won’t be getting paid this week because of a backlog from the city.”

Jonah Allon, a mayoral spokesperson, pointed to the recent formation of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, which aims to “professionalize these groups’ operations so they can better serve their communities and develop upstream solutions to stem the tide of shootings.”

He noted that in the previous fiscal year, under de Blasio, the city expanded the crisis management program into 61 schools, 4 hospitals and several new precincts. Allon did not respond to a question about whether the city is targeting new precincts for the upcoming fiscal year.

Jeffrey Butts, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who has researched the crisis management system, said the city faces the difficult job of scaling up the program without losing its grass-roots bonafides.

“The ideal employee is a 35-year-old who did time in prison and now can talk to the 15-year-olds in the neighborhood about making choices,” Butts said. “That person is not set up to have all the skills to run a non-profit.”

That ideal person might look something like Andre T. Mitchell, the Brownsville-raised founder of Man Up!, who was named by the mayor this month as the city’s first-ever “gun violence czar.”

Prior to his appointment, Mitchell, who did not respond to a request for comment, made his feelings clear on the current level of funding for the violence interrupter programs.

“We’ve been doing as best as we can with the least amount of funding that we’ve been able to receive thus far,” he said in February. “And believe it or not, with that least amount of funding, we have been making significant strides.”