New York City expands community outreach to curb shootings

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New York City is expanding a community outreach program in an effort to curb a recent spike in shootings.

The number of shootings citywide is up more than 12 percent even as overall crime is down.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that a new crisis management system will be put in place in the 14 precincts that account for 51 percent of the city's shootings. The mayor and City Council committed another $13 million to put more outreach workers into the most gun-plagued neighborhoods in an expanding effort to bring down the number of shootings.

"If you think we have a great police force, (that) they have to handle it all by themselves, we're not going to get where we need to go. But to think of this as a health crisis, because we're losing so many lives and so many people are being injured," said de Blasio.

The mayor said part of the plan entails enlisting community members - often former gang members - who will reach out to individuals who seem poised to commit violence.

Ella Thomas, of Harlem Mothers SAFE, said she believes the initiative can reduce gun violence. "I've been a member of SAFE for eight years, we go around to schools and we teach about gun violence," she said.

Social service groups and hospitals will help run the $13 million program. It will also put an emphasis on mental health and install anti-gun ads in neighborhoods plagued with violence.

Antoine Joyner who nearly lost his eye in street violence is proof the concept of violence interruption can work. He recently graduated from Penn State University. And now? "Right now focusing on getting into law school," he said.

The city is committing millions to this interruption strategy believing that grass roots intervention can change the course of violence by showing troubled youth a better path.

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