Citizens Crime Commission of New York City

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and public safety policies and practices more effective through innovation,
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Gang and Group Violence Prevention
Assessing New York City's Youth Gun Violence Crisis: Crews

The success or failure of community strategies to address the youth gun violence crisis is often attributed in part to how well the problem is understood and diagnosed. With support from The New York Community Trust, the Crime Commission has undertaken an analysis of youth gun violence and crew activity — violent turf rivalries among less-organized, smaller and normally younger groups than traditional gangs — in select New York City communities. Our initial findings from available data, existing research, and interviews with stakeholders are presented in a series of papers titled, "Assessing New York City's Youth Gun Violence Crisis: Crews".

New York City has famously experienced unprecedented, sustained reductions in crime over the last 25 years. Areas once so dangerous that they resembled foreign war zones now are home to some of the most desirable real estate in the country. We proudly and rightfully point to our success, calling ourselves the "safest big city in America". But there are places and people that have been left behind. There are areas which have not seen violent crime rates drop to nearly zero — as others have — or anywhere close. Certain races and age groups are also still far more likely to become victims and be responsible for violent crime than others.

The root causes of violent crime have not changed either—and the circumstances under which crime is committed sound eerily familiar to the high-crime New York of 25 years ago that we now refer to as the "bad old days". Therefore, in order to make real strides in improving the quality of life amongst these persistently hardest-hit groups, we must address the root causes of why youth become involved in gun violence and crews.

The NYPD publically acknowledged that youth "gangs" are becoming more organized and more violent, finding that more than a third of all shootings in New York City now involve what the NYPD calls "crews". In order to truly identify how youth are involved in organized activity (gangs, crews, etc.) and gun violence, the Crime Commission researched legal and intelligence definitions and conducted fieldwork with community residents, service providers, and policymakers which revealed three broad categories of organization:

Groups that have clear hierarchy, structure, organization, rules of conduct and are profit-motivated, usually affiliating with national gangs such as the Bloods.

Fluid groups formed based on where members live, such as a building or block, creating violent turf rivalries. Crews generally do not have clear hierarchy, structure, or rules, and are usually not profit-motivated.

Unorganized groups, often temporal in nature, which form as a result of interpersonal conflicts.

This research and fieldwork demonstrated that crews — and not traditional, hierarchical gangs — are a major part of violent crime statistics and analysis. Crews actually account for a great deal of youth criminal activity, especially violent crime — and without proper interventions for this type of activity, we will not be able to adequately address what has been a persistent public safety and criminal justice issue for New York City.

In order to develop more effective responses to crews it is essential for stakeholders to acknowledge the victimization of those involved, understand their underlying needs, and identify the neighborhood conditions that impact them.

Although there have been significant recent investments by policymakers and funders — ranging from organizing task forces and work groups, to deploying new law enforcement strategies, to implementing programmatic interventions — New York City's ability to fully understand and diagnose its crew problem is hindered by a lack of data and coordination.

While the NYPD collects data on crew members and related criminal activity, law enforcement data are typically insufficient to inform comprehensive responses because it is collected for the purpose of informing suppression and investigation strategies. At the same time, community-based organizations collect a range of data about the underlying needs of the individuals involved, but often lack the capacity to analyze and communicate these data to inform policy and programming decisions. Further, the City lacks a collaborative effort among stakeholders dedicated to addressing this problem.

Preventing crew violence cannot be accomplished by a single agency or organization. Effective solutions require the combination of insight, hard work, and dedication from a wide variety of organizations and stakeholders. New York City should immediately mobilize stakeholders to take steps toward developing a comprehensive strategy to address the city's crew violence problem.

The Crime Commission's Assessment Offers The Following Recommendations:

Implement A Collaborative Approach:
  • Deliver and sustain adequate services to prevent crew violence.
  • Develop funding strategies that promote stability and consistent service delivery, and thus situate providers in a position to succeed.
  • Better track the risks, needs, victimizations, and activities of youth involved in crews, as well as the conditions impacting them by harnessing the wealth of knowledge possessed by stakeholders.
  • Facilitate a collaborative effort among stakeholders to minimize the duplication of efforts and maximize the use of resources available to selected needs.
Better Collect And Share Data:
  • Share aggregated data on crews between government agencies and citizens.
  • Request the NYPD to report crew-related crimes as part the Mayor's Management Report and/or weekly CompStat reports.
  • Create information-sharing forums both within and across stakeholder groups (e.g., government, community-based organizations, youth) in order to share insights and identify effective prevention and intervention strategies.
  • Build the capacity of community-based organizations.
  • Support must be provided to community-based organizations for internal capacity building by instituting a civilian CompStat-like data management system for violence prevention programs.
  • Strengthen inter-organization collaboration to facilitate the integration of resources and responses.
Coordinate A Continuum of Interventions:
  • Incorporate programs that have different points of contact with youth at each developmental milestone.
  • Government must invest in locally accessible interventions that focus on education and vocational skills, address victimization, trauma and grief, and emphasize the role of the family and community.

As youth develop their identity, set goals, and plan for their future they stop committing crime. By implementing these suggestions, the city can build comprehensive strategies that reduce crew violence and make our communities safer.

Media & Resources
» see Resources related to this Initiative
» Gang and Group Violence Prevention overview
» Sustaining Crime Reductions in NYC
» Social Media & Real-World Consequences reports

Assessing New York City's Youth Gun Violence Crisis: Crews (2015)

Volume 1:
Defining the Problem
» download the report

Volume 2:
CompStat for Violence Prevention Programs
» download the report

Volume 3:
Responding to the Problem
» download the report

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