ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s governor appointed Wednesday the head of a new state agency that will try to curb rising gun violence in hot spots.
New York is seeing a continued decrease in overall crime, but gun violence is surging in the state and nationwide.
State officials estimates New York will see more than 800 homicides in 2022, according to New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services Commissioner Rossana Rosado.
That would mark the second year in a row with more than 800 homicides, according to Rosado, who spoke to lawmakers at a Tuesday budget hearing.
She said the state hasn’t see such levels since 2008.
About three-quarters of homicides nationwide involve firearms, Rosado added.
Combatting gun violence is a key priority for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who announced Wednesday that lifelong Harlem resident Calliana Thomas will direct the state Office of Gun Violence Prevention.
“As we enter 2022, we are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of guns finding their ways through our borders and into the hands of criminals,” Hochul said. “And we are seeing a concentration in places like the Bronx, Upper Manhattan, but also in other cities.”
Thomas previously worked at Harlem Children’s Zone leading efforts to expand cradle-to-career programming nationwide.
Thomas also worked on gun violence prevention programs with communities around New York City for seven years with the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The governor said the new state agency, within the state’s health department, will examine the drivers and effects of gun violence: “What leads people to this, and what is going on in their emotional and psychological worlds of what could be driving people to these decisions,” she said.
Hochul’s budget proposal includes more funding for gun crime tracing, as well as for the hiring of more social media analysts.
“This way we can find out early on what trends are out there,” Hochul said. “What are people talking about? What’s the chatter? And perhaps identify individuals who are on the cusp of purchasing guns or trafficking in guns, or even committing crimes.”
Hochul spoke in Greenbush on Wednesday ahead of the first meeting of a new interstate task force dedicated to improving tracing of illegal guns.
Hochul says officials from nine states on the task force will figure out how to quickly collect data on the flow of guns.
“We have the opportunity to have interdiction efforts along our border with Pennsylvania, identifying the gun shows where people are purchasing guns, loading up a trunk and coming up by 81 or route 90 in toward Western New York,” Hochul said. “And then the guns are ending up in our cities in particular. And that’s the level of trafficking that we want to zero in on.”