This week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a wide-ranging plan to address stubbornly elevated gun violence in the city, promising to expand violence prevention programs while also adding more police officers on patrol to address what he called a dire public health crisis.
“We won’t go back to the bad old days,” Adams said at a Monday press conference. “We must address the root causes of these challenges and help our young people on a better path long before they pick up a gun.”
Dubbed the Blueprint to End Gun Violence, Adams’ government-wide approach combines elements of violence prevention with more traditional law enforcement methods. The plan would increase support for violence interruption programs, revive a controversial anti-gun unit within the 30 police precincts NYPD data deems most violent, and assist those with immediate mental health needs. Some aspects lacked specifics and the plan doesn’t include a projected price tag, but Adams suggested that much of the cost would be covered by reassigning personnel and redirecting existing money.
Long before he took office, Adams was a key figure in the national debate over defunding the police, and he has drawn criticism for his occasionally brash remarks about people experiencing homelessness and mental health issues. Adams’ 15-page plan includes elements from the public safety debate’s competing camps, once again proving that the former police officer doesn’t fit neatly on any side. The varied strategies in his plan reflect the varied constituencies on which he relied to become mayor.
In the plan, he promises to increase police patrols and coordinate with federal and state law enforcement on gun trafficking, but also to invest in summer youth jobs programs and help young people in foster care. Perhaps most significantly, Adams said his administration will expand the network of gun violence prevention programs that operate under the city’s Crisis Management System. CMS, launched by Adams’ predecessor Bill de Blasio in 2014, is the nation’s largest city-coordinated gun violence prevention framework. It includes more than 50 community-based organizations that operate in 21 neighborhoods. Many CMS teams employ credible messengers who work to defuse conflicts and prevent shootings.
Since 2020, the city has spent more than $44 million to expand CMS. Last year, the system received funding aimed at tripling the number of anti-violence workers. Though the system has grown and some studies have shown its strategies to be effective, the CMS budget pales in comparison to NYPD’s $5 billion allocation. And some areas still don’t have enough CMS resources to match their level of violence; many neighborhoods don’t have a CMS team at all. Adams said he would make sure that CMS has the resources it needs to take on a greater role in addressing violence, though it’s unclear if that means additional funding.
In line with his campaign promises, Adams also said he will appoint someone to manage anti-violence efforts from City Hall and add new gun violence prevention coordinator positions at every city agency, including those without an obvious law enforcement or crime prevention function. The coordinators will act as liaisons between their respective agencies, City Hall, the police, and CMS teams.
“These leaders will be dedicated to seeing the agency work through the prisms of gun violence and offering ideas and solutions to support broader public safety efforts,” Adams said.
The new mayor’s plans outside law enforcement go beyond CMS. In recent years, violence prevention programs situated within hospitals have taken root across the country, helping gun violence survivors avoid retaliatory shootings while they receive care for their wounds. Several hospitals in the Bronx and Brooklyn already operate such programs, and the city will seek to add similar services to 10 hospitals in neighborhoods experiencing high rates of gun violence.
The plan also includes a proposal to redirect existing community mental health funds toward those experiencing homelessness and mental health crises. Adams also suggested revising laws to make it easier to involuntarily hospitalize some people who refuse treatment.
Shootings in New York increased dramatically in 2020, when the city became the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. Though the gun violence had shown signs of abating in 2021, it persisted in parts of the Bronx and northern Manhattan — though it remained far below historic highs. In January, as Adams’ administration settled in, the city saw a 24 percent increase in shooting incidents, while the fatal shoving of a woman into the path of a train raised concerns about safety on the subway. Within the last week, two police officers were fatally shot while responding to a domestic violence incident in Harlem, and a gunman’s stray bullet severely injured an 11-month-old girl in the Bronx.
These incidents put pressure on all sectors of the city’s new government to act quickly. Alvin Bragg, Manhattan’s new district attorney, said earlier Monday that he would prosecute gun crimes more aggressively, including nonviolent possession. During his campaign, Bragg said he would avoid prosecuting possession charges if the gun hadn’t been used in a crime. In his press conference Monday, Adams called on prosecutors to prioritize gun cases in court.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a progressive bulwark of city politics who is running for governor, released his own list of recommendations before Adams’ announcement. His proposals focused more heavily on community-led approaches.
In a statement to The Trace, Williams said he supported much of Adams’ plan — including investments in youth jobs programs, improving CMS, and focusing on gun trafficking — but not all of it.
“Some of the strategies proposed, from increased facial recognition to weakening some recent criminal justice reforms, are areas of concern,” Williams said. “In looking to solve the problems of the present and future, we need to learn the lessons of the past.”