Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, the Democratic nominee for the Queens District Attorney’s Office, was at Springfield Community Church in St. Albans Tuesday delivering an outline with measures to combat gun violence after recent police reports have depicted spikes in shootings in the borough.
There was a six percent increase in shooting victims and an 8.6 percent increase in shootings as of Oct. 6, according to NYPD statistics. The shooting stat was higher than the citywide increase of 5.9 percent.
Similar to her campaign for the DA’s office, Katz emphasized the need to work with the community and faith-based groups to help reduce or prevent gun violence among young people with mentorship, violence interrupter programs and structural support to help youths find a better path in their lives.
“With reported spikes in homicides in the boroughs north and south sectors,” said Katz, “we need to act now, we need to act now. Though it is imperative to get guns off of our streets, it is also critical for the Queens District Attorney’s Office to become a community department.”
The centerpiece of Katz’s plan was to implement guns as a public health issue, according to the borough president.
“Treat violence as a contagious disease,” said Katz. “One that could be treated and prevented using this public health strategy.”
A public health approach to gun violence has resulted in the use of fewer prosecutors and less incarceration, according to Katz.
A similar approach was used in Richmond, California and gun violence decreased 70 percent within three years, according to thehill.com.
“This model shows that peaceful solutions to situations can happen,” said Katz.
Providing Red Flag training at schools was another initiative of Katz.
“School officials can employ Red Flag laws to take guns away from those deemed a threat to themselves or to others where possible,” said Katz.
Some of the community-based organizations included the King of Kings Foundation, 100 Suits and Life Camp Inc.
“We will use the Queens District Attorney’s Office Crime Asset Forfeiture funds to empower all of these organizations and to make sure that the services that they provide will meet the young people of the borough of Queens,” said Katz. “We need to leave an infrastructure on the ground for continued support. You can’t just intervene and then just disappear.”
Katz also wants to make sure there isn’t a market for guns by going after the gun traffickers who come from other states weaker gun laws and target vulnerable communities and youths with gun sales.
“They come in, they bring guns, they illegally sell them to young people,” said Katz. “They will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Eighty-seven percent of illegal guns were brought in from states with weaker gun laws, according to stats.
“I think with the partnership and trust that we have here with [the community-based organizations] we can get the names of those who are selling guns to our young people to make sure that we have a holistic way of looking that and a much better opportunity to go after the gun traffickers and find them.”
One of the faith leaders supporting Katz at the event was Pastor Phil Craig of the Greater Springfield Community Church.
“Our communities and our children prosper when conflicts are resolved without senseless violence,” said Craig. “I have seen too many of our people lost to gun violence and we need to do more to prevent violence before it starts. Initiatives that provide options and better pathways for our youth are what’s necessary to keep them safe.”