New York City Launches Office of Neighborhood Safety

December 13, 2019

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NEW YORK CITY LAUNCHES OFFICE OF NEIGHBORHOOD SAFETY

ONS will leverage successes by the Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence and the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety, unifying resources to provide communities a direct role in public safety.

NEW YORK— The City of New York announced today that the Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence (OPGV) and the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP) will merge their efforts under the new Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS).

ONS combines two teams that previously offered complementary but separate approaches to community safety. In doing so, ONS allows for better sharing of resources and more holistic assistance for New Yorkers affected by violence. Coordinating and amplifying the work of a network of non-profits on the ground in 22 precincts, OPGV works through multiple channels to reduce gun violence, while MAP has organized residents, multiple city agencies, and numerous community-based organizations in 15 NYCHA developments into an effective neighborhood-based, problem-solving effort.

“There’s an emerging model for public safety in New York City that places communities at the center of creating and sustaining safety and creates new tools, including revitalizing public spaces,” Mayor’s Office for Criminal Justice Director Elizabeth Glazer said. “MAP and OPGV are the foundations for this new civilianization of safety, and are primed to grow in effectiveness and impact by coming together under ONS.”

The Office of Neighborhood Safety will add a dozen new staff to help in the direct delivery of services to affected neighborhoods and to provide fiscal and other necessary administrative help to support organizations on the ground. Funding for programming, including jobs programs, mental health services, and community improvement projects, all delivered through neighborhood-based organizations, is over $50 million.

ONS will be led by MOCJ Deputy Director Eric L. Cumberbatch, who has served as OPGV’s executive director since its launch in 2017. Jessica Mofield, currently deputy executive director at OPGV, will step in as the program’s executive director. Renita Francois will continue in her role overseeing MAP as executive director.

“This is an opportunity to both reach someone who may be struggling to put down a gun today and also to build the resources and connections to prevent someone from doing it tomorrow,” MAP Executive Director Francois said.

“In New York City, there are many layers to our efforts which prominently feature amplifying the expertise and collective strength of community members, many of whom have been personally impacted by neighborhood conditions. It is our goal to ensure they are at the helm to continue our vision of democratizing public safety, and our role as government to remove systemic barriers to make our city the safest it’s ever been,” said Deputy Director Cumberbatch. ““The MAP and OPGV teams want to thank all our partners and providers in these efforts, without whom this work could not be done. A special note of appreciation from MAP to the Center for Court Innovation, and from OPGV to all our many service providers working in communities throughout the city.”

MAP was launched in July 2014, after a spike in shootings in some of the city’s public housing developments. It works in the 15 (out of 334) developments that were identified as driving over 20% of the violent crime in public housing. It brings together residents, city agencies, community-based organizations, and others in a new way to address violence and neighborhood conditions. In an early response to issues raised, and guided by resident expertise, lights were installed in previously darkened and avoided areas of NYCHA campuses. An independent study showed that this approach resulted in a 30% reduction in nighttime felony crime. Changes continued: for the first time in 30 years, the City opened every community center with late hours. As the approach deepened, guided by resident expertise, MAP included universal summer youth employment. Among other things, 220 residents have received leadership training which they have used to engage over 20,000 of their neighbors to promote safety.

Over the past six years, MAP has become an internationally recognized model for how residents are able to co-create safety in their communities through innovative problem-solving. Its signature driver is the NeighborhoodStat program, which brings local residents, community stakeholders, and city agency representatives together to identify and solve public safety and quality of life issues within each MAP development. Residents drive crime prevention efforts through thought partnership with community organizations and agencies such as the Police Department, Parks Department, Department of Aging, NYCHA, and the Department of Sanitation.

The programming that comes out of these partnerships provides unique opportunities for residents. For example, Summer Youth Employment Program provides guaranteed jobs for hundreds of youth. Community infrastructure improvements and unused space activation improve residents’ shared physical space. The results of these projects are that MAP sites across the city have seen substantive drops in crime over the last five years, as compared to similar sites without the program.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation Center, have conducted analyses of MAP program effectiveness. According to researchers, index crime complaints in MAP developments—the most significant crimes tracked by the New York City Police Department—are down 7% over the last six years, versus a small increase of 1% in comparable non-MAP sites. Non-index felonies are likewise down, by 4%, versus the 4% increase elsewhere, while misdemeanor offenses fell by 21%, outpacing the 14% decrease in other non-MAP sites.

OPGV was launched in 2017 and works to address gun violence through a shift in social norms and the work of community members in mediating disputes to prevent shootings. The core component of OPGV’s work is through the Crisis Management System (CMS), which deploys teams of credible messengers—community members whose backgrounds allow them to connect with and motivate those at-risk—to 22 sites, where they mediate conflicts on the street and connect high-risk individuals to services that can reduce the long-term risk of violence. These include a year round employment program, mental health services, and trauma counselling, among other things.

John Jay’s researchers found that, across all CMS sites, shooting victimizations fell by 28% over the first 24 months following a site launch, compared the 24 months prior to the launch. Similarly, gun injuries were down 33%, researchers found. Additionally, researchers found CMS also increased trust in police and decreased residents’ reliance on violence to settle disputes.

For more information about MAP and OPGV, visit MOCJ’s website: https://bit.ly/2RAoKkX

“Combating the epidemic of gun violence requires an approach that is community-driven and neighborhood focused. It is critical that we invest in community resources and infrastructure in places which have historically seen disinvestment and violence,” Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams said. “I’m excited that this new partnership will help build on the good work of the OPGV and MAP through a united effort and a holistic approach.”

“Keeping NYC safe is a collaborative effort and this unification continues to strengthen the attempt we’ve made in recent years to put communities at the forefront of the conversation,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, Chair of the Public Safety Committee. “These offices and the programs they manage are clear examples that communities can be effective in driving down crime, if given the support they need.”

“Safety should always come first in how the city approaches its work. The new Office of Neighborhood Safety will ensure New Yorkers have the resources and services in their communities to feel better protected. I am thankful to the Mayor’s office for taking this holistic approach,” Councilmember Keith Powers, Chair of the Council’s Criminal Justice Committee, said.

“With the new Office of Neighborhood Safety, and the naming of Deputy Director Cumberbatch to take the helm of ONS we now have an agency and leader with whom advocates and leaders of cure violence programs can now coordinate with,” said Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel. “In the 41st council district we know that the civilianization of community gun violence prevention works. Combining the two offices will ensure a focused city-wide approach to ending gun violence in New York City.”

“It is exciting to merge together the efforts of OPGV and MAP. This further solidifies and strengthens public safety efforts on the ground and elevates community access to resources,” AT Mitchell, Founder/Executive Director of Man Up, Inc., said.

“Instead of reinventing the wheel we are combining efforts, which is fantastic,” said Ms. April Simpson, Queensbridge Resident Association Leader

“For decades, community-based entities have sought to strengthen and uphold our neighbors against the onslaught of urban decay. Over the last five years, NYC has experienced a dramatic drop in violence and crime in large part due to the establishment of the Crisis Management System, and the intentional directive to find and partner with the entities already doing the work in the most impacted communities,” said Rev. Wendy Calderón-Payne, executive director of BronxConnect. “The creation of the Office of Neighborhood Safety, with Eric Cumberbatch as its leader, displays wisdom and a long-term commitment to this directive. We applaud Mayor de Blasio for leading New York City towards safety and prosperity for all.”

“Looking forward to having more services and programs being brought to Bushwick,” said Ms. Lohoma Shipman, Bushwick Houses Resident Association Leader.

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