In July 2020, following the George Floyd riots, Mayor de Blasio disbanded the NYPD’s anti-crime unit, which led to a sharp rise in murders and shootings across Gotham. In response, Hizzoner called a news conference in Harlem in which he vowed to address crime’s “root causes.”
No one quite knew what he meant — until now. It turns out the solution is handing out cash to gun thugs.
Through an outfit called “Advance Peace,” the city will offer a stipend of $1,000 per month (“transformational opportunities”) to “young men involved in lethal firearm offenses,” at the same time pairing them with “neighborhood-change agents” — “credible messengers, meaning they bring life experience, conflict-mediation, and mentorship skills to the target population.”
If giving a grand a month to violent teens — on the proviso that they receive “mentoring” from older ex-cons — sounds like a good use of money, well, you’re in luck. According to Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, investing in the Advance Peace model “isn’t only a moral obligation, it’s a governing imperative.”
Williams — who himself avoids street violence entirely by living within the secure confines of Brooklyn’s federally managed Fort Hamilton Army Garrison — and his associates claim that Advance Peace is “evidence-based” and has a demonstrated track record of success. But a look at the organization’s own reports indicates that the model’s record is, in the best cases, mixed.
In Sacramento, three neighborhoods were targeted for an 18-month Advance Peace intervention, which really only covered 2019.
Those districts did see a decline in “gun homicides and gun assaults,” compared to the mean of the previous 36 months, though the comparison period is skewed by the sharp rise in the national murder rate caused by the “Ferguson Effect” in 2015. Murders across all of California, for example, rose steeply in 2015 and 2016, and then returned to pre-Ferguson levels.
The Advance Peace program in Stockton, Calif., on the other hand, was a disaster. Murders rose from 28 in 2019 to 45 in 2020, up 60 percent, much higher than the 37 percent increase nationwide.
The summary fact sheet for the Stockton program announces proudly that 71 percent of its 34 participants “are not a suspect in a new firearm-related crime.” Similarly, the Sacramento program boasts that 44 percent of its 50 members “had no new arrests.” Of course, that doesn’t account for the 17 original participants who dropped out or were arrested in the first six months.
If you are tasked with keeping a busload-sized cohort of young men from getting arrested for a gun crime, and count it as a success when only a dozen or so get caught, maybe you need to reconsider your definition of achievement.
In New York City, agreements have been struck with community-based groups in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island to manage stipend-and-mentorship Advance Peace programs.
The groups in question — including ManUp! in East New York and Street Corner Resources in Harlem — were selected because of their long experience in “violence interruption,” of course, their close political ties to local leaders.
But one has to ask if these are the groups that have been working so hard to stop violence in the neighborhoods they are rooted in, why are their neighborhoods so violent? Not to blame ManUp! or Street Corner Resources, but it isn’t clear what they have been up to that deserves to be rewarded.
In a year when murders citywide are running about even with 2020, the Street Corner Resources neighborhood precinct has seen eight killings, up from three last year, with shootings, felony assaults, and burglaries far outpacing the city as a whole.
In East New York, ManUp!, which for years has operated as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Charles and Inez Barron political machine, sits at the heart of one of Brooklyn’s most violent neighborhoods, which last year notched about 15 percent of the borough’s killings and 14 percent of its felony assaults. The two-year increase in a murder so far is a staggering 63 percent.
Trusting these groups to administer the disbursement of $1,000 monthly stipends to gangster protégés of ex-con mentors is truly insane. But with de Blasio leaving office in a few months, what better way for him to establish the capstone of his depressing eight years in City Hall?
Seth Barron is managing editor of The American Mind and author of the new book “The Last Days of New York.”