Governor Kathy Hochul came to Brownsville Thursday to announce more funding to over two dozen violence prevention organizations as part of a $13.6 million commitment to fight gun violence.
Joining Hochul for the announcement was Brownsville Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn) and several local violence interrupter advocates.
“You all come from different experiences. But you all came here for a common purpose. And in some of your cases, your common purpose may be to stop others from having the experience you had. Right. You don’t have to do this. This is not your destiny,” said Hochul.
Thirty organizations across the state will be able to hire 150 more violence interrupters, thanks to the state funding, and Hochul praised the work of these organizations and the violence interruption model.
“So it has that power in those stories and those personal connections that only you can give to people that I can’t, I can fund you, but I will not have the same credible messenger out there that they need to hear from. And that is how we’re making a difference,” the governor said.
The model relies on the expertise of credible messengers, like Booba [would not give full name for safety reason], a violence interrupter at Brownsville In Violence Out (BIVO). BIVO members belong to the community they work in and oftentimes have direct experience with gun violence, and who can identify vulnerable young people.
Booba said he makes contact with the vulnerable young person in question and then brings them into their network, and introduces the young person to his colleague, India, an outreach coordinator, who further integrates the person to identify needs and provide resources and support.
Hochul’s funding will allow BIVO to hire three more employees.
Hochul also pledged $2 million to a “Community Capacity Development Fund” to support the victims of violence, recognizing the traumatic impact of gun violence on communities afterwards.
Hochul mentioned the pain of the Uvalde mass shooting in Texas as well as the recent mass shooting targeting the Black community in a supermarket in her hometown of Buffalo. She reiterated her administration’s commitment to protecting public safety, most notably through passing comprehensive legislation strengthening the state’s regulatory control of gun ownership after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling effectively eliminating concealed carry prohibitions.
Walker praised Hochul for investing in communities while at the same time curtailing the expansion of gun rights through legislation.
“We cannot police our way out of this problem. We have to invest in the community because we know the best respondents are our violence interrupters and as lawmakers we have an obligation to pour resources and social services into our most vulnerable communities,” said Walker.