New York City is pouring millions into community programs intended to offer alternatives to normal policing in an attempt to quell the rise in violent crime.
Visol Smith is employed as a “violence interrupter” at Sheltering Arms, a community program in Far Rockaway, a neighborhood in Queens. He told WLNY-TV that young man was shot right in front of him as he tried to mediate the situation.
“I was in a situation recently where a young man got shot right next to me,” said Smith.
“I was in the process of doing the mediation and um he got shot, you know, two times, I had to duck and cover,” he explained. “So I’ve been been in a situation where guns been pulled on me, you know, it’s part of the job.”
New York City is spending $16 million to support these programs, and Sheltering Arms is going to see their budget increase by 25 percent as a result.
Smith explained why he believed violence interruption could be a more effective policy than simple policing.
“Being that we live in the community and we’re for the community, people respect us, who we are,” he said. “We don’t get that push back, that mind your own business.”
The murder rate in New York City has increased by 23% so far in 2020.
Black Lives Matter activists have demanded community efforts like “violence interrupters” to be employed instead of a police force as part of the “defund the police” strategy. Some cities, like Austin, Texas, have already begun to reroute funding away from the police department to social services they say will address the underlying causes of crime and violence.
A poll in July found that most Americans either want funding for the police to stay the same, 42%, or for funding for the police to increase, 31%. Only a quarter of Americans polled said they supported funding for the police to decrease.
Here’s the local news report:
$16 Million Citywide Initiative Hopes To Curb Gun Violence Using ‘Violence Interrupters,’ Community