Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/803 Sat, 28 Nov 2020 13:54:14 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) ThriveNYC Looks to Turn Corner with New Outcome-Focused Data https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9179-thrivenyc-looks-to-turn-corner-with-new-data-assessing-programmatic-effectiveness https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9179-thrivenyc-looks-to-turn-corner-with-new-data-assessing-programmatic-effectiveness first lady deputy mayors comm

Chirlane McCray, leader of ThriveNYC (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


First Lady Chirlane McCray’s signature mental health initiative ThriveNYC has faced withering criticism for spending hundreds of millions of dollars with few concrete results to show for it. But amid increasing scrutiny the de Blasio administration is seeking to put those concerns to rest as the Office of ThriveNYC for the first time releases detailed data tracking the outcomes of dozens of programs that have been launched under the Thrive banner.

It’s part of a reclamation project for McCray and her husband, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who have heralded ThriveNYC as a one-of-its-kind roadmap and national model, but struggled to show evidence of its effectiveness, particularly whether it was helping New Yorkers with serious mental illnesses. The mayor and first lady brought Susan Herman from the NYPD to the mayor’s office to establish better benchmarks, data-tracking, and standing for the program, and Herman is now showing the initial results of her work as executive director of ThriveNYC.

ThriveNYC’s proposed budget for the 2021 fiscal year, which begins July 1, is about $235.3 million, bringing its total spending to nearly $1 billion since the umbrella program was launched in 2015. Its programs include a mental health hotline, on-site mental health services at city schools, dedicated outreach teams for veterans, mental health screenings for younger adults at Department of Corrections facilities and for seniors at centers run by the Department for the Aging, to name a few.

Herman was named the director of Thrive a year ago, when it was formed into a standalone office under the mayoralty. In June of last year, the office released a list of about 100 metrics that it would be tracking to indicate program outcomes, the result of sustained criticism of the program by the mayor’s political opponents, budget watchdogs, City Council members, and others, which came after multiple media exposes and an embarrassing City Council oversight hearing.

When Herman took over, she set out to refine the program’s goals, culled down to four – strengthening crisis prevention and response, promoting mental health for the youngest New Yorkers, eliminating barriers to care, and reaching those with the greatest mental health needs.

While specific programs have been up and running for years – some have been refined, others expanded, and some cut back – they have so far only showed the city’s investments and inputs rather than outcomes. Last week, Comptroller Scott Stringer even added ThriveNYC to his “watch list” of city agencies, criticizing its profligate spending and lack of transparency.

The data released on Tuesday finally shows how much money is being spent on each program under ThriveNYC and the results of that spending. In an interview at the ThriveNYC office on Friday, Herman explained the new data and why it took so long to produce.

She said the office could only collect results once the programs had been implemented. “This was the undertaking that we went through very carefully last spring with all our partner agencies,” she said. “So some of them had to create new ways of collecting data and that takes time. Some of the effort is extremely time consuming.”

The data will be updated every quarter, with some indicators being updated semi-annually and annually, Herman said. The office also launched a new website to display the data and released a report showing its progress, including how many New Yorkers have received services between 2016 through June 2019, and highlighting how the program has achieved its four core goals.

Herman emphasized that the data release was not a scrambling response to the repeated criticism ThriveNYC has faced. “This is clearly a part of good government,” she said. “When you have a program, and you're ready to say this is how it's working. I think it will address many people's concerns but that's not why we're doing it. We’re doing it because it's part of what you do.”

She also noted that the comptroller may have jumped the gun when he claimed Thrive was not providing him with data he requested last week. Herman said Stringer requested detailed information on budgets, contracts and more, part of which includes the data released on Tuesday. “It’s a massive undertaking and he’ll get that shortly,” she said.

“I'm not really sure why he's added Thrive to the watch list,” she added. “I'm happy to talk to him about Thrive anytime he wants and I'm sure that some of this will satisfy some of his concerns. I don't think anybody can look at this data and not think that we are not only reaching a lot of people, but we're changing people's lives for the better.”

Stringer criticized the Thrive initiative’s failure to show line-by-line program expenditures and their results, which had been promised by the end of last year. “It should not take this long to produce metrics,” he said. “The current structure of Thrive can only be considered successful if it can prove its effectiveness.”

The new ThriveNYC progress report highlights some of those impacts. For instance, it shows that many people with serious mental illness are getting consistent help, something Herman also stressed in the interview. About 89% of clients treated by Intensive Mobile Treatment teams continue to receive treatment for more than a year, it says. According to other metrics, 90% of crime victims said they felt better after receiving services from the Crime Victim Assistance Program and 47% of seniors showed clinical improvement in depression symptoms after three months of treatment at a senior center.

The next stage, Herman said, will evaluate whether Thrive is having an impact at the larger population level by measuring whether New Yorkers with mental health needs get the treatment they require and whether fewer mental health needs turn into crises.

Herman also addressed questions about specific Thrive programs that have cropped up over time. The Mental Health Service Corps program, one of the most expensive aspects of Thrive, has been significantly scaled back after a disastrous launch and severe structural issues. “I would say it's been right-sized,” Herman said.

She also drew a distinction between an existing Home Visits program for new parents that is run under Thrive, as opposed to the new one recently announced by McCray that City Hall said is not considered part of the Thrive umbrella, without explaining why. Thrive’s program is aimed at filling a gap for families living in shelters, while McCray’s announcement covers the expansion of a program currently run by the Health Department, Herman said.

“What some people are missing is that Thrive isn't the mental health care system. It's much, much bigger than Thrive,” she said. “The Thrive initiative was to identify particularly critical gaps, and try and fill them in innovative ways, to reach people who haven't been reached before, to serve particularly underserved neighborhoods, to serve people in new ways.”

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

]]>
ThriveNYC Looks to Turn Corner with New Outcome-Focused Data Mon, 02 Mar 2020 05:00:00 +0000
De Blasio’s Promised ‘Comprehensive Strategy’ for City Response to People in Mental Health Crisis is Well Behind Schedule https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8754-de-blasio-s-promised-comprehensive-strategy-for-city-response-to-people-in-mental-health-crisis-is-well-behind-schedule https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8754-de-blasio-s-promised-comprehensive-strategy-for-city-response-to-people-in-mental-health-crisis-is-well-behind-schedule ca nyc mental

Community Access members rally at City Hall (photo: @ca_nyc)


A task force empaneled by Mayor Bill de Blasio to recommend how city government, particularly the police department, can better respond to emotionally disturbed people in crisis has yet to release its report, about 10 months after its work was to be concluded.

Calls from community leaders and activists have grown, but the “NYC Crisis Prevention and Response Task Force” remains largely silent, leading advocates and elected officials to wonder why the issue isn’t a higher priority for a city that has seen 14 mentally ill people killed by police officers in “EDP” calls since Crisis Intervention Training began in 2015.

It was created on April 19, 2018 by the mayor and First Lady Chirlane McCray, who leads the administration’s mental health programming, in order to look at how New York City cares for emotionally disturbed people, who are often people diagnosed with serious mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, when they are experiencing a crisis moment like exhibiting violent or erratic behavior.

The release said it would be “a 180 day effort.” If true that would have landed its conclusion at mid-October of last year. With a couple months for internal consideration and publication of next steps, advocates, elected officials, and service-providers expected something from City Hall at the start of this year. As September approaches, there have been no signs of the task force’s final recommendations or a plan from the de Blasio administration.

“At the end of 180 days, the City will announce a citywide strategy to improve NYC’s mental health crisis system,” the press release said.

In that April 2018 press release announcing the task force, there were four stated goals: “prevent mental health crises before they happen”; “enhance coordination between the city’s safety and health systems”; “enhance ongoing support to reduce mental health crises over the long-term”; and “share data across systems to refine approach over time.”

“As a City, we have completely overhauled how we address mental health to shatter stigma and increase access to care,” de Blasio said in the release. “Now, we must do the same for when a New Yorker is at risk of experiencing a mental health crisis. I’ve charged this Task Force with developing a comprehensive strategy to prevent these situations from escalating and enhance the City’s crisis response system. These recommendations will keep our neighborhoods and our most vulnerable New Yorkers safe.”

The task force was to be chaired by top City Hall officials, with McCray as an “honorary co-chair,” and the work led by the Police Department and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, with involvement from a variety of other city agencies and offices.

The working groups of the task force, which included around 75-80 people from a broad swath of organizations that have some involvement with people’s mental illness and/or policing, submitted recommendations to the task force’s advisory group in January. The advisory group included city leaders like NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, now executive director of ThriveNYC Susan Herman, various deputy mayors, and others.

Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) was designed to give police officers better tools to de-escalate situations involving emotionally disturbed people. Over the past ten years, police officers have been forced to handle these situations more and more. According to a report by THE CITY, EDP calls to 911 have risen dramatically since 2009, from 97,000 to nearly 180,000 in 2018.

When someone calls 911 about a person in emotional or psychological crisis, the current NYPD response consists of sending police officers and Emergency Medical Services, but critics say this protocol falls well short in ensuring safety and care, as evidenced by the 14 deaths over the last four-plus years. Currently, the city focuses more on preventing crisis than what to do during a crisis, which is in part what this task force was created to address.

"The Task Force was very much centered on prevention, as well as ensuring that, post-crisis, people are connected to care and their life stabilizes in such a way that they are less likely to be in an emergency situation in the future," Herman, now of ThriveNYC and formerly of the NYPD, told Gotham Gazette. During the August 6 interview, Herman said the task force's report is expected within about a month but did not provide any specifics. 

ThriveNYC, McCray’s mental health “roadmap” programming, utilizes two major options to prevent a mentally ill person from reaching a crisis point. First, Thrive funds about six co-response teams a day. The co-response teams are a proactive intervention for people who neighbors, bystanders, local service providers, or police believe may be demonstrating escalating tendencies towards violence. The co-response teams -- consisting of two police officers and a medical clinician -- can find that person and connect them to care and appear successful: 82% of the people co-response teams attempt to engage are successfully connected or re-connected to care or another stabilizing support such as housing or family.

Second, the city operates Health Engagement and Assessment Teams (HEAT) teams which are a health help-only response in that they don’t involve police officers. HEAT teams are called by police, or local agencies such as the Department of Homeless Services. Thrive also operates various ACT teams, which provide mobile outpatient care to those with mental illness but are not designed to respond to crises.

One recommendation by mental health advocates would make the co-response teams a 911 response. For example, when someone calls 911 regarding a mentally ill person in the midst of a crisis, 911 operators could send a clinician with a police officer to handle the situation.

"When someone is thought to be mentally ill,” said Herman, “and has already demonstrated escalating levels of violence, co-response Teams of police and clinicians can provide an important intervention. Currently, co-response teams do not respond directly to 911 calls. These teams are a proactive intervention when homeless services, police, probation, or a local clinic or social services provider has said someone is mentally ill and they worry they are getting increasingly violent. This is an intervention to avert a crisis, not to end an emergency.”

CIT training has been slow to wind its way through the NYPD. According to that same report by The CITY, as of this past March, 11,970 of the NYPD’s nearly 36,753 officers have received Crisis Intervention Training.

However, some advocates like Carla Rabinowitz, advocacy coordinator of the nonprofit Community Access, don’t think training every NYPD officer is enough: they don’t want police officers involved in EDP calls at all.

“One of our main concerns,” she told Gotham Gazette, “is that we don’t want the police responding anymore, there have just been too many incidents. We don’t feel it’s right for the police, not fair to them, it’s not fair to the families to only be able to call the police. It’s scary for families, they don’t want to call the police. They want an alternative. They want someone to come who is going to take care of their health care, not who is going to force them to the ground.”

“It’s like sending in a mechanic to do what a heart surgeon should do. You want people who know how to de-escalate, who are very familiar with mental health…you don’t want militarized force. It’s not the response.”

Another change Community Access is calling for is a non-911 number to call for people in crisis. That number could effectively take police out of the equation altogether. ThriveNYC currently operates NYC Well, a mental health tele-helpline that people with any type of mental health issue can call to talk to somebody or get connected to care. NYC Well currently has the ability to dispatch mobile crisis teams, or police with Emergency Medical Services.

No matter what the task force recommends, Rabinowitz of Community Access, which was part of the working groups, doesn’t think enough mental health “peers” were involved in the process.

“There were a lot of people on this task force, and we credit the mayor for creating this task force, the problem is…we still haven’t seen the recommendations yet,” said Rabinowitz. “And the thing we’re concerned about is on the task force there weren’t that many people with lived experience, what we call ‘peers.’ And the task force was trying to help people who were encountering the police who were mental health recipients.”

Herman disputed the criticism: "Peers played a critical role in the Task Force, as did community advocates. We have had several separate meetings with community advocates as well. There was also a Task Force subcommittee on community engagement."

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams has been an outspoken critic of the city’s response to EDP calls. In a rally hosted by Community Access on the steps of City Hall in April of this year to mourn the one-year anniversary of both the creation of the task force that had not yet produced results and the death of Saheed Vassell, a 34-year-old mentally ill man killed by police officers, which sparked the creation of the task force, Williams said, “When it comes to issues of policing, transparency, accountability, when it comes to how emotionally disturbed persons are dealt with in this city, from the beginning to when police are called to try to fix all the problems, it is this mayor and this administration that has the accountability and the successes, and unfortunately mostly failures. He has to be held accountable.”

“When loved ones call for assistance, their loved ones need not be killed by officers who are improperly trained and do not have the tools and are not equipped to deal with medical emergencies. We are failing everyone in this system and I blame it now in totality on this administration.”

***
by Truman Stephens, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

]]>
De Blasio’s Promised ‘Comprehensive Strategy’ for City Response to People in Mental Health Crisis is Well Behind Schedule Thu, 22 Aug 2019 04:00:00 +0000
ThriveNYC to Implement New Performance Tracking System Focused on Outcomes https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8645-thrivenyc-to-implement-new-performance-tracking-system https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8645-thrivenyc-to-implement-new-performance-tracking-system first lady chirlane mcray deputy mayors comm

Chirlane McCray (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


Following repeated criticism about spending hundreds of millions of dollars with unclear outcomes, ThriveNYC, First Lady Chirlane McCray’s signature mental health initiative, is now publishing nearly 100 metrics to track the performance of dozens of programs that have been launched in the last three years.

The metrics, provided to Gotham Gazette just before their public launch, will show outcomes of programs, not just their reach or the city’s investment into them as has been the case since the inception of ThriveNYC.

Over the last few months, ThriveNYC partnered with the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance and various city agencies to create 94 performance indicators across the board, and will begin to publish that data on its website starting this fall, with varying timelines depending on individual initiatives.

ThriveNYC will publicly post a detailed description of each initiative, the agency handling the program, and the indicators associated with it. For instance, for NYC Well, the mental health phone helpline run by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, ThriveNYC will measure the percentage of callers who say they are satisfied by its services. To measure the Mental Health First Aid training program, the office will look at the percentage of people that say they shared or used the training they received. 

“Now that the programs are implemented and even the ones that are about to launch, we’re putting up the metrics that we’re going to be looking at to see what kind of effect they’re having,” said Susan Herman, ThriveNYC’s director since February, in a phone interview on Thursday. 

Inaugurated in 2015, ThriveNYC was meant as a paradigm shift in how the city handles mental health issues, seeking to tear down stigma around getting mental health care, targeting services at New Yorkers who cannot afford the cost of care or have been long underserved, and ensuring that people of all backgrounds are more attuned to their own mental health needs, as well as those of their friends, family, and colleagues.

With $850 million pledged over four years, the overarching initiative, called a mental health “roadmap,” sought to bring together a range of services, with more than 50 programs (including some that were already running) across a dozen-odd city agencies. McCray has been the face of the program, touting its gospel across the city and in appearances, both with and without Mayor Bill de Blasio, across the country.

But while many have praised the program’s goals, the accountability involved has been vague. In April 2018, McCray said in an interview on the Max & Murphy podcast from Gotham Gazette and City Limits that Thrive would begin a “resetting” phase, including by bringing on its first executive director and tracking more metrics for the various programs. Gotham Gazette reported soon after that many of the ThriveNYC goals were difficult to track and that the budget was opaque.

By February of this year, a second reset began. ThriveNYC became a standalone office housed under the mayor’s office and Susan Herman, a former NYPD deputy commissioner, was named its director and senior advisor to the mayor, with the task of better organizing the effort and ensuring that it had the right structures in place. But several news reports, first in Politico New York and then The New York Times, further pointed out that ThriveNYC was struggling to track and show results despite having spent nearly $600 million.

In March, the New York City Council convened an oversight hearing where they tried to hold McCray and Herman’s feet to the fire, demanding to know if the city was getting the bang for its buck. 

Those answers are now forthcoming, the city says. 

Herman’s first task when she took over ThriveNYC, she said in the interview, was to clarify to the public the scope of ThriveNYC and the services provided under its umbrella. She denied that the metrics were created in response to the criticism the program faced, saying that they couldn’t be established earlier since there was no data to assess and that the various initiatives had to first be up and running.

“First of all we’re measuring the right things at the right time. This is when you start measuring outcomes, when you are fully implemented,” she said. “And I think most researchers would tell you, ‘Yeah this is just exactly when you should be doing exactly what you’re doing.’ And secondly, it’s very important to know that we are also engaged in formal evaluations, many of which are up and running and have been up and running, some of them for over a year, some of them two years, some of them just launched, some of them still to come but we have worked with outside researchers for years to do formal evaluations of Thrive programs and we’ll continue to do that.” 

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance, echoed Herman in a separate interview. “In this kind of work there are generally two kinds of measures for programs and program success: there’s outputs and outcomes,” he said. “Outputs tend to be process-y, like how many meetings did you do, how many contacts, and those are really useful for management. In the end, whether you’re the government or general public, it’s the outcomes that matter. And they’re both more important and usually the trickier thing to measure.”

While McCray and de Blasio have talked extensively about the importance and impact of ThriveNYC, the measures have almost all been outputs, as Jacobson put it, with McCray admitting at the recent Council oversight hearing that limited systems were in place to even try, difficult as it may be, to track outcomes for individuals serviced by Thrive programs.

With the next fiscal year, FY 2020, beginning on Monday, ThriveNYC will also launch new programs, with plans to spend nearly $243 million overall through the course of the year. These programs are expected to have metrics attached, with reports issued quarterly, semi-annually, and annually, depending on the data gathered.

Some are already evident and showing impact. For instance, according to ThriveNYC, 48% of young children receiving mental health treatment for early childhood trauma at seven clinics run by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have shown signs of improvement. At 25 Department for the Aging senior centers with on-site mental health clinicians, 56% of seniors receiving treatment have shown improvement in depression symptoms and 65% have shown improvement in anxiety symptoms.

Even the host of new metrics are an “interim” phase, Herman said, which will eventually be followed by broader evaluations of programmatic effects on specific populations -- school students, for example -- and then a holistic review of ThriveNYC’s effect on the entire city. 

Herman couldn’t explain why the city had failed to measure the impact of many of the programs involved that had existed before ThriveNYC, though she said these had not been repackaged but instead enhanced under the de Blasio administration.

“Some of these programs, could some of them have had outcome measures earlier? Perhaps,” she said, “but this is a way of looking at Thrive in total...It’s an important distinction. Because really what people are asking is what’s the impact of Thrive? And at this point what we should be looking at is the impact of each of the initiatives. It’s only later still that we can look at the impact of Thrive on larger populations and eventually on New York as a whole.” 

Jacobson said, “You can start to think about this for any program but you can’t do it until you get some historical data...It couldn’t have been on day one.” 

Part of the failure to show qualitative and quantitative results, Herman said, is because of the nature of ThriveNYC. Akin to other long-term public health programs, it’s hard to gauge in the span of a mayoralty.

“It’s comparable frankly to universal pre-K where you can see the immediate result, you can see that kids are in school, families are happier but, like Headstart, you won’t know the impact on those children’s lives for many years to come,” she said. “And then you see it and it’s very clear. Just like smoking bans, just like trans fats bans, just like universal pre-k. You’re gonna have an impact that you won’t see for years.”

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

]]>
ThriveNYC to Implement New Performance Tracking System Focused on Outcomes Fri, 28 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
More Evidence Punitive NYPD Youth Programs Fail https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6066-more-evidence-punitive-nypd-youth-programs-fail https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6066-more-evidence-punitive-nypd-youth-programs-fail Bratton NYPD

(photo via @NYPDnews)

 


 

This week the New York Times revealed the content of an internal NYPD report showing that a much lauded juvenile crime program doesn’t work. It’s yet another example of misguided punitive policing, offering little by way of actual progress.

Originally developed under the title “Juvenile Robbery Intervention Program” (J-RIP), it targets past juvenile offenders in hopes of preventing future crime. The original J-RIP program, which began in Brownsville in 2007 and expanded to East Harlem in 2009, targeted juvenile robbery offenders who were back in the community. These youths were given a clear message that they were under enhanced police supervision and would face significant consequences if rearrested. They were also offered mentoring and a few support services by police in hopes of steering them in the right direction.

In practice, the program offered little in the way of services. Young people were given a chance to participate in existing programs like the Police Athletic League (PAL) and were regularly visited by uniformed officers in their homes and on the streets. While these officers were supposed to be acting as mentors and monitors, defense lawyers reported that officers sometimes used these visits as a pretext to conduct searches and that they sometimes called attention to program relationships in front of other youth, potentially marking them as informants—a dangerous label in these neighborhoods.

No real services, such as job placement or family counseling were provided, and the officers involved had no special social services training, playing a primarily surveillance and enforcement role.

In April of 2014, NYPD Chief Joanne Jaffe, who developed the program, spoke at the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School, where she lauded J-RIP as being highly effective. She provided data that showed that over the course of the program robberies in the targeted areas had fallen significantly. What she did not discuss, but the November 2014 NYPD evaluation report makes clear, is that the decline mirrored city-wide trends and that J-RIP participants were rearrested at the same or higher rates than youth with similar records in the same and nearby neighborhoods without J-RIP.

Even though the 2014 report showed there were no crime reductions under J-RIP, the NYPD has moved forward with an expansion of the program in a different guise.

In early 2015, the NYPD rolled out NYC Ceasefire, under the leadership of Susan Herman, Deputy Commissioner for Collaborative Policing. The new version focuses more on gun crimes and adds group “call-in” meetings in which the targeted youth are brought in and lectured by police and community members about the harmful effects of their violent actions and the potential enhanced consequences of additional violent offenses. They are then placed under extensive surveillance regimes and targeted for enhanced punishments if caught re-offending. They are also offered some minimal services, primarily in the form of a centralized referral phone number run by a local non-profit that is there to link young people to already existing programs.

J-RIP and NYC Ceasefire are both examples of “Focused Deterrence” programs. Developed by criminologist David Kennedy, and first implemented in Boston in 1996, they attempt to stop gun violence or other serious crime through intensive and targeted enforcement combined with support services.

Ideally this model begins with a community mobilization effort in partnership with local police. The goal is to send a unified message to young people that serious crime will no longer be tolerated. If it occurs, they will use every resource at their disposal (“pulling levers”) to not only apprehend the assailant but to disrupt the street life of young people involved in crime across the board. The hope is that young people will choose to avoid violence so that they can concentrate on socializing and low level criminality free of constant police harassment. This is based on research that showed that a great deal of shooting was not drug or robbery related but involved a constant tit for tat of revenge gunfire by rival factions of young people engaged primarily in turf battles.

The key is to break that cycle of retribution and gun carrying. To achieve this, young people believed to be involved in violence are called into meetings with local police and community leaders and threatened with intensive surveillance and enforcement if the gun violence doesn’t stop. These “call ins” are made possible in part because many of these young people are on probation or parole for past offenses.

In addition to more intensive enforcement efforts, there is usually an effort to develop some targeted social services with the hope that this will help draw some of these young people away from violence and towards education and employment opportunities.

This approach relies primarily on intensive punitive enforcement efforts such as surveillance, investigations, arrests, and intensified prosecutions. Also, the social services offered tend to be very thin, involving some counseling and recreational opportunities but rarely access to actual jobs or advanced educational placements.

Some youth are able to get GEDs and access some social programs, but very few wind up with jobs, much less well-paying or stable ones. In some cases the focus is on a variety of life skills and socialization classes which do nothing to create real opportunities for people and reinforce the ethos of personal responsibility that often ends up blaming the victim for their unemployment and educational failure in a community that tends to be incredibly poor, underserved, segregated, and dangerous.

Evaluation research of these programs does show some meaningful declines in crime that can even last for years. Overall, though, the results are quite thin. Most reductions are small, occur in only a few crime categories, and don’t last very long. They also continue to reinforce a punitive mindset about how to deal with young people in high crime, high poverty communities, most of whom are not white.

It is certainly true that violent crime is heavily concentrated among a fairly small population of young people in specific neighborhoods. It makes more sense to target them than indiscriminately stopping and frisking or arresting and summonsing hundreds of thousands of young people who have either done nothing wrong or engaged in minor misbehavior. Despite the claims of the Broken Windows theory, there really isn’t a strong connection between the two groups.

The problem lies not in the targeting, but in the methods used. Most young people who engage in serious criminality are already living in harsh and dangerous circumstances. They are fearful of other youth, abusive family members, and the prospect of a future of joblessness and poverty. They don’t need more threats and punishment in their lives.

They need stability, positive guidance, and real pathways out of poverty. This requires a long-term commitment to their well-being, not a telephone referral and home visits by the same people who arrest and harass them and their friends on the streets. It was Bill Bratton, in his first stint as NYPD commissioner, who pointed out that police officers are not social workers, they’re not trained for it, nor prepared for it, and that’s not their role. Why would they be the best-suited for engaging these young people as mentors or life skills trainers? They aren’t.

It makes much more sense to do two types of things.

First, we have to have a real conversation about entrenched racialized poverty concentrated in highly-segregated neighborhoods. These are the neighborhoods that continue to be the main source of violent crime problems. It is true that crime has declined overall without major reductions in poverty or segregation, but it’s also true that the crime that remains is concentrated in these areas. And, unlike aggressive policing and mass incarceration, doing something about racialized poverty and exclusion would have general benefits for society in terms of reducing poverty, inequality, and racial injustice.

Second, we need to use peer-based mentoring systems and outreach workers, who can talk to people from a shared position of living in one of these neighborhoods. The power of that connection for building credibility cannot be overstated. Recently, Mayor de Blasio has expanded a number of City Council-developed initiatives to use violence interrupters and other community-based and public health-oriented interventions to reduce gun violence.

So-called “cure violence” programs like SOS Crown Heights, and GMACC in East Flatbush are training young adults to break the cycle of violence through rumor control, gang truces, and ongoing engagement with youth out on the streets. They provide safe spaces for young people to talk out their problems and when well-funded, provide real services to them and their families to deal with problems of housing, education, and unemployment, as well as mental illness and substance abuse.

It’s time for Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD to abandon NYC Ceasefire and other focused deterrence initiatives that primarily criminalize young people. We already know that jails and prisons produce much worse life outcomes for these youth. Let’s stop relying on coercion and control and try more compassion and concern.

***
Alex S. Vitale is associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics. He is senior policy adviser to the Police Reform Organizing Project and serves on the New York State Advisory Committee to the US Civil Rights Commission. You can follow him on Twitter: @avitale

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com

]]>
More Evidence Punitive NYPD Youth Programs Fail Wed, 06 Jan 2016 04:42:41 +0000