New York’s governor has declared America’s first state of emergency on gun violence, saying it’s now claiming more lives than COVID-19.
Andrew Cuomo committed to spending at least $138.7m (£100.5m) on intervention programmes to tackle the gun violence crisis and announced a new strategy to “build a safer New York“.
Speaking at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Tuesday, Mr Cuomo said at least 51 people were shot in the state over the fourth of July weekend, and only 13 died of COVID-19.
“Treat gun violence as it is which is really a public health emergency, that’s what it is and that’s how we are going to treat it,” he said. “So today, the first state in the nation is going to declare a disaster emergency on gun violence.
“If you look at the recent numbers, more people are now dying from gun violence and crime than COVID – this is a national problem but someone has to step up and address this problem because our future depends on it.”
He added: “This is the state, when it sees an injustice, we don’t look the other way, we stand up and we fight it and that’s what we are going to do with gun violence.”
Declaring disaster emergency status allows the state to expedite money and resources to communities so they can begin “targeting gun violence immediately.”
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The governor released a slide during the news conference outlining seven key strategies the state plans to take to address the problem.
While some of the steps were wide-ranging such as treating gun violence “like the public health issue it is” or keeping “guns out of the hands of dangerous people”, others were more detailed – including “positive engagement for at-risk youth” and getting “illegal guns off the streets”.
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The governor’s plan will also see the launch of a new police unit to intercept illegal guns from coming into the state, and a $76m (£55m) fund used to create jobs and community activities for at-risk youth.
Mr Cuomo also created an executive order, requiring all major police departments to share incident-level data on gun violence with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, to identify “gun violence hotspots”, in a similar way to how the state has been tracking COVID-19 cases.
Initial hotspots identified in New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, and Long Island include 4,090 young men aged 18-24, who account for 48.5% of recent gun violence in those communities, according to the governor.
Resources would then be deployed to the areas worst affected.
The most recent weekly data from the New York Police Department (NYPD) shows 2,337 gun arrests have been made citywide since the beginning of this year, with Kings County recording the highest number with 992.
However, the NYPD’s citywide crime statistics show 165 shooting incidents were recorded in June, which is a 19.5% decrease compared to the same time last year when 205 incidents were reported.