Background

Gun violence is by far the largest driver of homicides in America, the overwhelming majority of which take the form of day-to-day shootings in underserved communities of color.1 Black and Latino young men living in urban neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by this tragic violence—almost 75% of America’s 14,542 gun homicide victims in 2017 were either Black or Latinx, and nearly 85% were male.2

In order to tackle this public health crisis, we need policies that address not only access to firearms, but also the root causes of community violence in impacted neighborhoods. In addition to stronger gun laws, there are a number of highly effective intervention strategies that directly address gun homicides and shootings by working with high-risk individuals to disrupt cycles of violence. For more details on these strategies, see our Healing Communities in Crisis report.

Interpersonal Violence in New York

New York has some of the nation’s strongest gun laws, and consequently, one of the lowest overall gun death rates.3 In 2017, New York’s gun homicide rate was the 11th-lowest in the nation, marking a more than 15-year low in the state’s gun homicide rate.4 For states with a population greater than two million, New York has the nation’s third-lowest gun homicide rate.5 Despite this success relative to other states, New York still suffered 312 gun homicides and hundreds more non-fatal shootings in 2017.6

Similar to national trends, homicides in New York are largely driven by gun violence—more than half of all murders that occurred last year were committed with a gun—and are highly concentrated geographically. In 2018, over 70% of murders known to law enforcement in New York State took place in just four cities.7

These killings take a disproportionate toll on communities of color. In 2017, black New Yorkers made up 20% of the population, but accounted for two-thirds of all gun homicide victims.8 Latinx residents experienced firearm-involved killings at an average of four times the rate of white residents.9

While shootings and homicides in New York appear to be on the decline, cycles of violence continue to take an enormous emotional, physical, and financial toll on the state and its residents. Including direct and indirect costs associated with healthcare, law enforcement, lost wages, and pain and suffering, gun violence in the state costs New York approximately $5.6 billion annually.10

Although gun violence is still an issue in New York, the state has made enormous progress in recent years. Between 2010 and 2017, gun homicide rates in New York have fallen by a remarkable 41%.11 In addition to leading the country in terms of strong gun laws, New York is also a national leader when it comes to the level of its investment in local, evidence-based violence intervention and prevention strategies. With spending on such programs at roughly $1.00 per capita, the only state in the nation that invests more than New York in supporting local violence reduction strategies is Massachusetts.12

New York’s Investment in Addressing Serious Violence: GIVE and SNUG

New York State provides funding to support local violence reduction strategies through two competitive grant programs: the Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) initiative and Operation SNUG.

Funds from GIVE and SNUG support local, evidence-based gun violence prevention and intervention strategies throughout the state. Both the GIVE and SNUG grants are administered and overseen by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), which also provides technical assistance and helps facilitate cross-jurisdiction information sharing.

The GIVE initiative currently provides funding to law enforcement agencies in 17 counties that account for 82% of the state’s violent crime outside of New York City.13 The State of New York has funded GIVE at $13.3 million per year since its inception.14

Operation SNUG is an investment in a public health approach to addressing gun violence. The program channels funds to street outreach programs working with high-risk individuals at 11 sites in nine of the state’s most impacted jurisdictions, including New York City. The state began funding street outreach through Operation SNUG in 2009, and while funding has varied over the years, the 2018-2019 fiscal year budget appropriates $4.78 million to support this program.15

New York’s strong gun laws, coupled with its combined investments in GIVE and SNUG, have created a comprehensive statewide response to gun violence that is having an impressive impact on violent crime. Between 2010 and 2017, the total number of homicides in New York has declined by over 35%,16 while gun homicide rates have fallen by a remarkable 41%, driven by a 49% decline in gun homicides among young men aged 14-30.17

To learn more about how New York and a handful of other states support effective, evidence-based gun violence reduction strategies at the state level, see our report Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State-Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence.

GIVE Program Specifics

As a response to stubborn levels of gun violence in the areas outside New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo launched the GIVE Initiative in 201418 to replace New York’s 2004 crime reduction grant program, Operation IMPACT.19 While IMPACT was effective at reducing property crime, it did not specifically aim to reduce gun violence. Consequently, the most serious offenses—shootings and gun homicides—went largely unabated.20

Despite IMPACT’s shortcomings, GIVE ultimately benefited from the infrastructure established by its predecessor. GIVE operates in the same 17 counties outside of New York City, and continues to use the same networks for information sharing, which enables law enforcement agencies to work together in a coordinated manner to address serious crime.

Unlike its predecessor, GIVE has a clear focus: preventing shootings. To achieve this goal, the state requires counties to submit a violence reduction plan incorporating at least two of the following evidence-based violence reduction strategies:21

  • Street Outreach involves the use of trained credible messengers, often people who live or grew up in the community and have relevant life experience, to directly engage with people most likely to commit acts of serious violence. Outreach staff help mediate potentially violent conflicts and provide access to educational opportunities, mental health services, tattoo removal, and employment training.
  • Group Violence Intervention (GVI) is a violence reduction strategy that involves a partnership between the community, law enforcement, and social service providers with the goal of identifying and intervening with those at highest risk for engaging in violent behavior.
  • Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) attempts to reduce criminal activity by physically improving blighted neighborhoods through projects that include installing outdoor lighting and video cameras, as well as and cleaning and fencing off vacant lots that tend to attract criminal activity.
  • Hot-Spots Policing employs a range of law enforcement tactics to focus on small geographic areas where crime is concentrated.

GIVE was also designed to address another important aspect of gun violence prevention: building confidence and trust in the criminal justice system by supporting policing initiatives that improve police legitimacy and foster community engagement with crime prevention efforts. As part of this, GIVE counties are required to incorporate procedural justice components into their comprehensive violence elimination plans.22

DCJS supports GIVE counties by providing ongoing technical assistance training and facilitating cross-jurisdiction information sharing, which occurs through a partnership with crime analysis centers operated in a number of GIVE counties. The crime analysis centers provide real-time data and intelligence about violent crime that GIVE jurisdictions use to strategically guide their respective violence elimination plans.

In Newburgh, the city’s GIVE-funded response to violence incorporates the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) strategy. About twice a year, representatives from the District Attorney’s office assemble a group of police officers, service providers, probationers, and parolees at high risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of violence.23 At these convenings—which are a prominent feature of the GVI strategy known as “call-ins”—attendees are alerted to their risk and given a genuine offer of services and support intended to help them find a healthier, safer path forward. However, if the shooting persists, attendees are warned that there will be a swift and sure response from law enforcement.

In Newburgh, call-in invitees ready to make a change are given referrals to Exodus Transitional Community, an agency that provides a broad spectrum of services to adults and youth and directs clients to agencies able to provide vital assistance such as job placement and training.24

Results

While formal evaluations of GIVE are pending, some GIVE grantees have experienced significant reductions in firearm-related crime since the start of the program. For example, after launching GIVE in 2014, nonfatal shootings are down more than 80% in Newburgh, and firearm-related violent crimes have fallen by more than 65%.25

Statewide, as of 2018, non-fatal shootings in GIVE counties are down 15%, and firearm-related violent crime has fallen at one and a half times that rate.26 There have been 247 fewer victims of gun violence in GIVE communities since 2015.

Reductions in firearm-involved robberies and assaults in GIVE counties have out-performed the state as a whole, with the sole exception of New York City. In fact, while the number of gun-related aggravated assaults grew modestly from 2014 to 2017 in non-New York City regions, GIVE counties experienced a 7% decline in assaults over the same period.27 A formal evaluation will help confirm these results, but there are early indications that GIVE has helped communities to move in the right direction when it comes to addressing shootings.

Operation SNUG Program Specifics

Operation SNUG is the street outreach component of New York State’s violence prevention strategy and plays a critical role in connecting at-risk individuals with the services and support necessary to change the trajectory of their lives. The program was created in recognition of the fact that relying solely on law enforcement is not enough to adequately address the epidemic of community violence.

Operation SNUG is a competitive grant program run out of DCJS that supports an approach to violence reduction based on the Cure Violence model of street outreach work. The Cure Violence model is a public health approach to violence reduction that identifies individuals in a given area who are most at risk for involvement in gun violence and then uses culturally competent case managers, preferably with similar lived experiences, to work directly with these individuals to help create behavior change, address the root causes of violence, and interrupt cycles of retaliatory conflict. The model also calls for a local campaign to change social norms surrounding the acceptability of the use of violence.28

Unlike GIVE, SNUG does not have a law enforcement component, and instead works directly with high-risk individuals to treat the root causes of violence and promote behavioral change.

While SNUG sites vary in size, their organizational structure is generally the same. Each site is run by a program manager, an outreach worker supervisor, and a number of trained outreach workers with caseloads ranging from seven to ten clients. Outreach workers are required to complete the weeklong Violence Interruption Reduction Training (VIRT) that is put on by technical assistance providers from Cure Violence.29

DCJS is responsible for overseeing SNUG sites to ensure the efficacy of operations, fidelity to the Cure Violence model, and the transmission of best practices among the 11 SNUG sites. DCJS convenes a conference every six months in Albany for all SNUG program managers and outreach worker supervisors to come together to discuss topics like time management, dealing with trauma (not only within the community, but also within the SNUG workforce itself), crime-mapping skills, and data management.30

As an example of the work funded by SNUG, Stand Up to Violence (SUV), is a SNUG site located at Jacobi Medical Center in Brooklyn. In addition to their two street outreach teams, SUV operates a Hospital-Based Violence Intervention and Prevention program that connects young adults who are in the hospital recovering from firearm-related injuries with culturally competent caseworkers who provide long-term coordination, linkages to community services, home visits, and follow-up assistance. The program’s target areas saw a nearly 60% decline in shootings between 2014 and 2016.31

Results

Independent evaluations by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation Center in New York City support the efficacy of SNUG-funded programs. The center’s evaluation found that “the presence of Cure Violence in a neighborhood is associated with significant reductions in the willingness of young men to use violence in conflict situations.32

Another evaluation by John Jay found that, “[w]hen compared with similar areas of New York City, gun violence rates declined significantly in two neighborhoods operating programs inspired by the Cure Violence model.”33 More specifically, “gun injury rates fell by half [50%] in East New York while the matched comparison area for East New York (Flatbush) experienced only a 5% decline in the same time period. The area of the South Bronx served by Cure Violence experienced strong and significant declines in both measures of gun violence: a 37% decline in gun injuries and a 63% reduction in shooting victimizations, compared with 29% and 17% reductions in the comparison area (East Harlem).”34

New York: Investing In Intervention

Through the GIVE and SNUG programs, New York is one of the only states in the country that is investing substantially in evidence-based gun violence reduction strategies at the local level and is a national model for statewide investment in gun violence prevention and intervention programming.

Strategically directing resources to disproportionately impacted communities can make a significant impact, even at the state level, as has been the case in New York. Between 2010 and 2017, gun homicide rates in New York State have fallen by a remarkable 41%, driven by a 49% decline in gun homicides among young men aged 14-30.35 New York now has the 12th-lowest gun homicide rate of the 50 states, and the third-lowest among states with a population of at least 2 million residents.

GIVE and SNUG are helping to prevent shootings in New York State. In doing so, they are saving lives and also helping reduce the more than $2 billion in direct costs like healthcare and criminal justice expenses generated by gun violence every year.36 Factoring the reduced quality of life attributable to pain and suffering, the overall estimate of the economic cost of gun violence on New York State is upwards of $5.6 billion annually, but a continued investment in evidence-based programs like GIVE and SNUG will help to continue to stem the tide—saving lives and taxpayer dollars.37 New York should remain committed to this critical investment.

Other states that have chosen to fund local, evidence-based violence reduction strategies, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, have also witnessed substantial reductions in gun violence in recent years. To learn more about how these states are supporting effective gun violence reduction strategies, see our report, Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence.

Notes
  1. According to CDC data, out of 19,510 total homicides in the US in 2017, 14,542 were committed with a firearm, which is nearly 75%. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), “Fatal Injury Data,” accessed Oct. 8, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/Wisqars. ⤴︎
  2. Id. ⤴︎
  3. “Annual Gun Law Scorecard,” Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Accessed December 20, 2018, https://lawcenter.giffords.org/scorecard. ⤴︎
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2017, on CDC WONDER Online Database, accessed December 20, 2018, http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html. ⤴︎
  5. Id. ⤴︎
  6. Id. ⤴︎
  7. “Uniform Crime Reporting Program Data: Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, 2018, Table 8” US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed October 9, 2019, https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/tables/table-8/table-8-state-cuts/new-york.xls ⤴︎
  8. “Fatal Injury Data,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), accessed Dec. 17, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/Wisqars. ⤴︎
  9. Id. ⤴︎
  10. Calculated by Giffords Law Center. Estimates of the cost of gun violence in Massachusetts were created using a model published in 2012 by economists at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE). PIRE is a nonprofit research organization that focuses on using scientific research to inform public policy. This model can be found at www.pire.org/documents/gswcost2010.pdf. All cost estimates were adjusted to 2016 dollars. ⤴︎
  11. “Fatal Injury Data,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), accessed Dec. 17, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/Wisqars. ⤴︎
  12. Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Investing in Intervention, https://lawcenter.giffords.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Investing-in-Intervention-02.14.18.pdf. ⤴︎
  13. Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York State. 2018. “2018-19 Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) Initiative: Request for Applications (RFA),” http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/ofpa/pdfdocs/2018-19_give_rfa.pdf. ⤴︎
  14. New York A 2003 (enacted April 12, 2019); New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, Grant Programs, Law Enforcement, https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/ofpa/fundingprograms.html. ⤴︎
  15. “Governor Cuomo Announces More than $3.1 Million in Funding to Combat Gun Violence Across New York State,” State of New York, Governor’s Press Office, Dec. 31, 2018, https://www.ny.gov/sites/ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2017EndofSessionReport.pdf. ⤴︎
  16. “Crime, Arrest and Firearm Activity Report,” New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, accessed October 8, 2019, https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/greenbook.html. ⤴︎
  17. “Fatal Injury Data,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), accessed Dec. 17, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/Wisqars. ⤴︎
  18. “Governor Cuomo Announces Funding Available to Combat Gun Violence in 17 Communities Across New York State,” New York State, Feb. 11, 2014, https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomoannounces-funding-available-combat-gun-violence-17-communities-across-new-york. ⤴︎
  19. “Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) Initiative,” New York State, Division of Criminal Justice Services, http://criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/impact/index.htm. ⤴︎
  20. “Gun Violence Focus of New Initiative,” Democrat & Chronicle, Feb. 11, 2014, https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/2014/02/11/gun-violence-focus-of-new-initiative/5404639/. ⤴︎
  21. Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York State. 2018. “2018-19 Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) Initiative: Request for Applications (RFA),” http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/ofpa/pdfdocs/2018-19_give_rfa.pdf. ⤴︎
  22. Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York State, Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) Initiative, https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/impact/index.htm. ⤴︎
  23. Tina Rosenberg, “Taking Aim at Gun Violence with Personal Deterrence,” The New York Times, April 3, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/03/opinion/gun-violence-personal-deterrence.html. ⤴︎
  24. For more information about Exodus Transitional Community visit http://www.etcny.org/. ⤴︎
  25. “Crime, Arrest and Firearm Activity Report,” New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, accessed October 9, 2019, https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/greenbook.html; see also Tina Rosenberg, “Taking Aim at Gun Violence with Personal Deterrence,” The New York Times, April 3, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/03/opinion/gun-violence-personal-deterrence.html. ⤴︎
  26. “Crime, Arrest and Firearm Activity Report,” New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, accessed October 9, 2019, https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/greenbook.html. ⤴︎
  27. Id. ⤴︎
  28. For more information visit www.cureviolence.org. ⤴︎
  29. Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Investing in Intervention, https://lawcenter.giffords.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Investing-in-Intervention-02.14.18.pdf. ⤴︎
  30. Id. ⤴︎
  31. Data provided by Cure Violence. ⤴︎
  32. Sheyla A. Delgado, et al, “Young Men in Neighborhoods with Cure Violence Programs Adopt Attitudes Less Supportive of Violence,” John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation Center, Mar. 2017, https://johnjayrec.nyc/2017/03/16/databit201701. ⤴︎
  33. Sheyla A. Delgado, et al, “The Effects of Cure Violence in the South Bronx and East New York, Brooklyn,” John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation Center, October 2017, https://johnjayrec.nyc/2017/10/02/cvinsobronxeastny. ⤴︎
  34. Id. ⤴︎
  35. “Fatal Injury Data,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), accessed Dec. 17, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/Wisqars. ⤴︎
  36. “The Economic Cost of Gun Violence in New York,” Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, https://lawcenter.giffords.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Cost-of-Gun-Violence-in-New-York-1.22.18.pdf. ⤴︎
  37. Id. ⤴︎