By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
When President Joe Biden, New York Mayor Eric Adams, and Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged their full support to tackle gun violence and those who sell weapons, the trio decided to meet in Queens, New York.
With Gov. Kathy Hochul joining the excursion, talk centered on perhaps the most needed aspect of the fight against crime and gun violence in urban communities: violence interrupters.
Many viewed that the discussion – and subsequent momentous pledges – occurred in Queens counts as significant, particularly for Erica Ford, founder of Life Camp, the nonprofit whose goals and methods center on ending gun violence in underserved communities.
“What people are starting to understand, I think, is with the George Floyd situation and COVID, where people had to sit still and watch what was going on, people started to have more empathy for how we live and the conditions in which we live in,” said Ford, an internationally recognized peacemaker.
She has been at the forefront of reducing youth and community violence in New York City and other areas for more than three decades.
“There are some professional commentators who have no desire or interest to help. Instead, they want to confuse or distract, but I believe people are moving from a space of fear to a space of love,” Ford decided.
She called Mayor Adams a “different kind of mayor,” noting that he’s stood tall on the frontlines and understands the issues facing underserved communities.
“His commitment is to get people the things they need to live as humans, so he’s dedicated to supporting the New York City Crisis Management System, and he wants to make sure things work,” Ford insisted.
Much of the communities Ford serves lack the resources for residents to make intelligent decisions, and she noted the infiltration of guns.
“We are not the ones making the guns, so where are they coming from? They are getting into the hands of our babies,” Ford declared.
Both Mayor Adams and President Biden have pledged support, and each has pushed legislation to assist.
Mayor Adams stated his desire for precision policing to track down illegal firearms and “500 to 600 trigger pullers that are producing 17 percent of the violence in this city although they are less than 1 percent of the population.”
In New York, major crime reportedly jumped from 38.5 percent in January 2021 to January 2022. In addition, robberies, and felony assault both surged 33 percent.
Garland announced new federal help, while President Biden has earmarked $8 billion in his stalled Build Back Better bill for community violence and prevention across the nation.
“That means groups like ours who are on the frontlines helping to reduce gun violence would get some much-needed assistance,” Ford remarked.
She noted that in 2021 the President signed an executive order that allowed 26 federal programs and five agencies to change the language in their budgets on how they allocate funds to violence interrupter groups like Life Camp.
“The answer is not to defund the police. It’s to give you the tools, the training, the funding to be partners, to be protectors and community leaders,” President Biden said during the February 3 meeting in New York. “To know the community, you know. Police need to treat everyone with respect and dignity,” the President said.
Mayor Adams exclaimed that city residents need to have “the justice we deserve, but the safety we need, and we need to tweak some of the legislation that we have witnessed to take an account the public safety aspect of it.”
The mayor also called on state lawmakers to change New York’s bail reform law to allow judges to consider a suspect’s danger to the community when setting bail.
“At some point in life, we have to be about life,” Ford asserted. “We have to be servants of the world and to our nation. We have to be about those people we serve, not just the constituents in our areas, but across the nation.”
“There has to be a consideration to making sure that everyone has access to quality of life, to healthcare, and education. Investment in violence prevention is about helping people move those barriers that stop them from living.
“Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, the question of violence, safe roads, and access to the internet is vital. And we need to help those incarcerated to come back into society. All of this allows us to build as a nation, so why not? We should want to build as a nation.”