Gov. Andrew Cuomo finally declares gun violence in New York State a disaster emergency even though community leaders have been calling for designation for years. The announcement comes as violence worsens in the city and victims are getting younger.
The NYPD reports that 19 people were shot in 16 shooting incidents between last Friday and Monday. Leaders and officials are outraged that some of the victims included teenagers.
On Sunday, 13-year-old Jaryan Elliot was fatally shot in the Belmont section of the Bronx, according to the NYPD. The shooter reportedly drove up to a cafe and fired at the teen who was the intended target. Law enforcement officials say the shooting was gang related and in retaliation for the killing of 19-year-old Tyquill Daugherty just days prior.
Also in the Bronx on Sunday, 16-year-old Ramon Gil-Medrano was killed when he was shot while sitting in a livery cab by two perpetrators on scooters. The NYPD said Gil-Medrano was the intended target and that the shooting stemmed from a gang dispute. Reports indicate that Gil-Medrano survived being shot last year.
On Monday, a 17-year-old boy sustained injuries when he was shot in the Bronx in another gang related incident. Reports indicate the victim was shot in the stomach in the Mount Hope section. He was taken to the hospital where he was in stable condition. The shooting is believed to be retaliatory.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea let out his outrage over the shootings this week. The Bronx has the highest crime rate in the city where shooting have increased by 150% compared to 2020.
“We’ve had a bad run right now in the Bronx specifically, with gang violence involving young kids,” Shea said. “This is what literally; this is what keeps me up. It kept me up last night. What are we going to do about this?”
Cuomo’s declaration of gun violence as a disaster emergency is the first of its kind in the nation. The plan is to invest $138.7 million in intervention, prevention and jobs programs to engage at-risk youth. A gun trafficking interdiction unit is also being created to stop the flow of illegal guns into the state.
“Just like we did with COVID, New York is going to lead the nation once again with a comprehensive approach to combating and preventing gun violence, and our first step is acknowledging the problem with a first-in-the-nation disaster emergency on gun violence,” Cuomo said. “When we see an injustice we don’t look the other way, we stand up and fight it because that’s the New York way.”
The disaster emergency declaration will create the Office of Gun Violence Prevention to coordinate efforts and direct resources to emerging gun violence hot spots. Funding will also go towards strengthening police-community relations.
Democratic mayoral candidate and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams met with President Joe Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and mayors of other cities on Monday to discuss strategies to reduce gun violence in New York and across the country. During the meeting Biden advised Adams to increase police in the city when he takes office.
In March, Biden announced that funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) will be used to tackle crime.
Speaking to the AmNews, Adams said he and the mayors shared with Biden what they’re facing on the ground. He also said Biden made a commitment to meet with anti-violent crisis management teams in the community.
“I think there are a number of things we need to do if we want to get this right and that includes looking at how we are feeding violence in our city,” Adams said. “I am calling on dollars to be used to put real pinpointed resources to stop the fears of crime and put in place what I call a ‘joint gang and gun’ taskforce. I believe that we need to put in place a real initiative to deal with the long-term problems and the immediate issue of dealing with the violence we’re seeing now and the President with that.”
On Tuesday, Adams went back to the community at a neighborhood event in Harlem hosted by anti-violence organization Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. Speaking to the crowd, he guaranteed more people combating violence head on will be at the table.
“They are doing this work every day and no one seems to acknowledge their existence,” Adams said. “But that changes day one. We’re going to show you what it is to be loved by the chief executive of the city. We’re going to get on the ground and stop this violence.”
Anti-violence activists across the city have been calling gun violence a public health emergency for years in hopes that it would flow much-needed resources to communities to fight crime. Erica Ford, who is founder of LIFE Camp in Queens, said she advised Cuomo to classify gun violence as a disaster emergency earlier this year.
“The call was made and now it’s up to the federal government to put in more money,” Ford told the AmNews. “I think that with a connection with what is happening also on the White House level that we would begin to make those transitions. We just want to make sure it’s getting to the right people who have the history and the cultural competency. It’s connectedness to the people who will be most impacted by violence.”
A.T. Mitchell runs anti-violence organization Man Up! Inc. in Brooklyn and he told the AmNews that Cuomo’s designation is long overdue. However, Mitchell says while calling violence a disaster emergency is a good thing he remains skeptical about its effectiveness.
“Now that the governor has actually come on board with all of us who have been saying this for so many years, we are hoping that this isn’t just talk,” he said. “It’s more about action now. We need resources. I don’t believe it until I see those resources land in our lap. We are the ones who are the credible messengers and that’s just rhetoric to me right now.”
Harlem Mother S.A.V.E. co-founder Jackie Rowe-Adams said she’s pleased by Cuomo’s announcement and that it’s never too late. She’s been advocating for elected officials on all levels to specifically address gun trafficking.
“I’m glad about what the governor did and I’m glad he’s talking about it. People are killing each other and using these illegal guns and it must stop. We’ve got to get hold on it,” Rowe-Adams told the AmNews.
Shanduke McPhatter, who is the founder and executive director of the Brooklyn-based organization Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Change (GMACC), said organizations like his have been advocating for year to get the governor to consider gun violence an emergency. McPhatter believes Cuomo was encouraged by Biden’s funding from the ARP for crime reduction efforts.
“When he saw that the president was giving attention to it, it was only right that he follow that same direction,” McPhatter said during an interview with the AmNews. “We know there should be changes because the American Rescue Plan allocates millions of dollars to our communities specifically to our type of work.”