Safety in our Streets: Collective Responsibility

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Eruptions in gun violence carry intense trauma, pain, and loss for our communities. As we have seen in Harlem over the last couple of weeks, the lives stolen by senseless violence has affected me deeply - I mourn the tragic losses of every invaluable soul whose joys and sorrows were taken from our community.

For many of us in East Harlem, it's personal. Growing up in Wagner Houses, we recall the loses from our own youth where we learned the fragility of peace and safety. Teenagers like Lamar Gibson, who tragically passed away as a victim of gun violence in Washington Houses earlier this week, is a loss that feels innately personal. So, we must take every effort to protect each other as if they were our own loved ones.

We must therefore combat gun violence, and all violence, with tangible solutions that cut deep into the roots of the violence itself. Our communities have survived precisely because of their capacity to proactively protect, save, aid, and heal - we must embrace this and expand on their potential. Public safety is not a dichotomy that forces us to choose between safer streets or aggressive policing. Rather, public safety is a collective responsibility where it demands equitable importance on accountable policing as it does on engaging those at risk, healing from trauma, and improving the conditions that perpetrate such violence.

How East Harlem Stands Against Violence

I've been engaged with community leaders, elected officials, and constituents to take an unequivocal stand against gun violence, and to build on community collaboration for both healing from the trauma and in our response to prevent any more losses and pain. Public safety is dependent on public health, on employment, and education, on recreation. In other words, there is no single root cause, so there can be no single solution. The tasks of safety and peace before us demand collective action.

Here are some ways East Harlem is responding, and ways you can get involved:

Proactive Intervention, De-escalation, Violence Interrupters

This year has tested our tenacity to great lengths, and yet I've listened to a community that's eager to respond to stopping violence with a plethora of ideas, willingness, and expertise. There's untapped potential within the community's capacity to tackle the root of the issues. Along with community leadership and my colleagues in Harlem, we're advancing a holistic approach towards communal safety intended to proactively intervene in inter-communal violence.

Youth Town Hall

Rivalries within communities, especially when isolated, can escalate tensions that can erupt in violence. The added conditions of rising unemployment, stresses from quarantine, and diminished access to avenues that would otherwise de-escalate potential violence further strains the community's ability to respond. The most vulnerable group of people as a result is the youth.

So, we must create the spaces and opportunities for the youth to safely express their needs, fears, and ideas. The Harlem elected officials will partner with the Mayors' Office, Street Corner Resources, and SAVE to organize a Youth Town Hall to develop strategies centered around the safety and healing of the youth who remain vulnerable positions as a result of inter-communal violence.

The Town Hall is expected to be held as early as this week, and I look forward to reporting positive outcomes by next week.

Expanding De-escalation and Violence Interrupters

Deep rooted community organizations like Street Corner Resources, SAVE, Guns Down Lives Up have been long engaged in the mission to proactively intervene and serve and de-escalators and violence interrupters. They are trained to engage with high risk individuals to manage crises as a result of the difficult conditions that arise within working-class communities.

These are incredible organizations that are equipped with a level of expertise which is a necessary function towards community safety - especially in situations where law enforcement entities are not best equipped to prevent or de-escalate potential violence.

With colleagues and the leadership from the Mayor's office, we are advocating to expand SAVE's catchment and identify additional resources to bring violence interrupters to crucial areas in the community that need additional support.

They need our help, and they need your help too. Any time committed to volunteer, or any material support, can truly make a difference in our collective efforts, which further builds solidarity, heals, and raises our morale. The work ahead of us for the remainder of the summer, and beyond, will be demanding, tiring, and stressful. But we will check on each other, inspire each, care for our neighbors and heal, and together we will stand up against gun violence.