New York City plans to fight crime by paying at-risk youths to choose getting a high school-equivalent diploma or driver’s license instead of a gun.
A new $1 million crime prevention program, announced in July, pairs young people at high risk of gun violence with mentors who help them set and be paid stipends for “career-driven accomplishments,” The Washington Times reported Monday.
National law enforcement groups, however, question the endeavor.
"Providing a financial incentive to not commit gun crime is most assuredly a fanciful, unscientific 'solution' to a very specific problem," National Police Association spokeswoman Betsy Brantner Smith told the Times.
"Instead of stigmatizing and punishing a bad behavior, this program rewards a neutral behavior, and will undoubtedly be rife with fraud."
While supporting the idea of youth mentoring programs, Smith said the New York City program "seems like a case of throwing good money after bad."
Precisely how much money an individual youth could earn in the program remains uncertain. An official in the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice told the Times that program organizers were "still in the process of rolling out the next steps."
New York City's pilot program is modeled after Advance Peace, an anti-gun violence mentorship program founded in Richmond, California, in 2010.
Though the program saw success early on, adoption elsewhere was discouraged after critics scoffed at the idea of giving money to people for complying with the law, The Trace reported.
In the 11 years since Advance Peace was founded, just four additional cities — Stockton, Fresno, and Sacramento in California, and Forth Worth, Texas — have embraced the program, The Trace said.
However, early research indicated the programs worked. An American Public Health Association report concluded that Advance Peace led to a nearly 45% decline in gun crime in Richmond between 2010 and 2017, and a more than 20% drop, compared to an average of the previous four years, in gun homicides and assaults in Sacramento in 2018, The Trace reported.
The Trace said that cities following the model pay a stipend of roughly $1,000 a month for staying in the program, as well as bonuses for meeting agreed-upon life goals such as obtaining a driver’s license or GED.
Mayor Bill de Blasio in March announced his intention to bring Advance Peace to New York to help combat an increase in shootings and fatalities. In 2020, NYC murders reached a nine-year peak, The Trace reported.
"I'm very, very hopeful this would be something that has a profound impact, and we can prove its impact here and expand it," de Blasio said then.
San Francisco recently announced a program in which it will pay individuals $300 not to be involved in a shooting.
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