The Office of Neighborhood Safety
The Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP) and the Office to Prevent Gun Violence (OPGV) are celebrated initiatives under the de Blasio administration fostering deeper relationships with vulnerable, historically disinvested communities in New York City to increase their access to resources and opportunities that help them thrive. As of 2020, they are now joined by Atlas, which works in cooperation with both the MAP and OPGV networks to invest resources and support for people released pre-trial and the communities they call home.
Embedded in the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ), MAP, OPGV, and Atlas place communities at the center of creating and sustaining safety and develop new tools, including revitalizing public spaces and creating opportunities for New Yorkers that minimize or eliminate the need to interact with the criminal justice system.
As the nationwide demand grows for a frank conversation about public safety and how municipalities invest in communities, the City of New York continues its proven track record in innovating solutions that foster and maintain safety without solely relying on enforcement. Essential to such an approach is ensuring that residents have a fuller, more robust resource that keeps New Yorkers at the helm of democratizing public safety while removing systemic barriers that many residents have and continue to face.
The Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS) combines efforts from MAP, OPGV, and Atlas to better share resources and more holistic assistance for New Yorkers affected by violence. ONS’ sister teams work with their network of residents and community leaders to ensure more New Yorkers have the agency and ability to define public safety directly for themselves. As such, ONS relies on residents’ experience and expertise as guiding principles and is committed to ensuring that historically disenfranchised communities have access to opportunities.
MAP launched in July 2014 following a spike in shootings in some of the city’s public housing developments. Over the past six years, MAP has become an internationally recognized model for how residents co-create safety in their communities through innovative problem-solving. Its signature initiative NeighborhoodStat brings together residents, community stakeholders, and city agency representatives to identify and solve public safety and quality of life issues. Residents take the lead in safety realization efforts through partnerships with community organizations and various City agencies, including the Police Department, Parks Department, Department of Aging, NYCHA, and the Department of Sanitation.
Partnerships with local organizations also provide unique opportunities for residents, including the Summer Youth Employment Program that provides guaranteed jobs for hundreds of youth. Community infrastructure improvements and unused space activation projects have also improved residents’ shared physical space. As a result, MAP sites across the city have experienced 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 (JJREC) has 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.
OPGV 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 at-risk individuals — to 22 sites where they mediate conflicts on the street and New Yorkers to services that can create peace and support healing. These include a year round employment program, mental health services, trauma counseling, and other opportunity-centered resources.
In 2019, a team of MOCJ and JJREC 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%. When compared to matched comparison sites during the same time period, the decline in shootings was three times steeper than in comparison sites and the decline in gun injuries five time steeper (see all 3 charts here). Researchers also found CMS also increased trust in police and decreased residents’ reliance on violence to settle disputes.
Atlas began initial on-the-ground operations in the summer of 2020, with significant program expansion scheduled for 2021. Named for both the collection of maps and the mythic strongman who held the world on his shoulders, Atlas acknowledges the crucial role that neighborhood connections play in lifting up its members. Atlas seeks to address the risks and needs of individuals released pretrial on their own recognizance who are at heightened risk of future victimization or justice-system involvement. The program offers participants therapeutic services to address past trauma; mentorship, education and employment opportunities; and entry into supportive community networks.