Although we have seen negative change within the Safety and Victimization topic this year, there have been a number of efforts that aim to address the disparities we highlight here that may contribute to future changes in disparities. Work in this area has been varied, including intervention programs, policy recommendations to increase safety and reduce victimization, and other government actions targeted to specific disadvantaged groups.
Among the broader interventions that aim to improve safety and reduce victimization are “credible messenger” violence reduction programs, which connect young people to advocates who have gone through similar experiences and, therefore, may be more likely to impact thinking and behavior. A number of credible messenger programs have been launched in NYC in recent years, including the City’s Cure Violence initiative, for which there is some evidence of positive effects: between 2014 and 2016, young men in NYC neighborhoods with Cure Violence programs adopted attitudes less supportive of violence. Other credible messenger programs, such as Arches, a program of the NYC Department of Probation and the NYC Young Men’s Initiative, have also begun, along with the establishment of the Credible Messenger Justice Center, which provides training and support for credible messengers and advocates for expanding the practice even further. Although none of these credible messenger programs specifically aim to reduce disparities in violence, given the large racial disparities that exist in victimization rates, they may nonetheless contribute to future changes in disparities captured in our race and violent victimization indicator.
STEPS to End Family Violence is another youth-focused intervention program, but with a specific focus on domestic violence, it relates more to our race and domestic violence homicide indicator. STEPS works to address domestic violence among youth through a number of different programs. Its ongoing Relationship Abuse Prevention Program, for example, provides programming in several NYC high schools to prevent teen dating violence; the court-mandated, 6-month Teen Accountability Program, in turn, works with teenage boys with charges related to intimate partner or family violence.
Also related to the race and domestic violence homicide indicator, in 2017 the City launched a Domestic Violence Task Force (DVTF), for which ISLG provided management and support. The DVTF undertook an intensive review of the City’s current programs, policies, and practices to prevent, reduce, and respond to domestic violence, and at the end of the review developed a series of recommended policy actions that included increasing housing protection for domestic violence victims and implementing more targeted risk assessment tools for domestic violence offenders.
Issues related to another Safety and Victimization indicator— foster care status and child abuse/neglect—have received much public attention in recent years, and several initiatives may contribute to changes in disparities. To prevent new cases of abuse and neglect, the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) has continued to provide oversight and training to foster care providers, as well as to prioritize maintaining family connections, a documented strategy to produce better outcomes for children. Among foster care placements in fiscal year (FY) 2017, for example, rates of siblings placed in the same home and with relatives increased from FY 2016. It should be noted that this is an area where increased attention may have the somewhat paradoxical effect of increasing reports of abuse and neglect—which could, in turn, increase reported disparities. Through more accurate reporting, however, this could potentially produce better outcomes. For example, a 2016 ACS Child Safety Alert protocol defined the responsibilities of foster care provider agencies and foster parents with the express intention of prompting a heightened level of scrutiny of abuse or neglect of children in foster care; so although this type of change could increase maltreatment reports, it may be not be reflecting new cases, but instead cases that had previously been uncaptured.
Finally, a number of targeted policies focus on hate crime victimization. In February 2017, New York State announced a $25 million grant program that will begin in FY 2018 to increase security and prevent hate crimes in schools, community centers, and day care centers that are considered to be at risk due to their belief system or mission. Additionally, the New York State Police created a task force to combat hate crimes and anti-Semitism in response to threats and vandalism targeting Jewish community centers in late 2016 and early 2017, as well as an increase in reported hate crimes in New York State targeting Muslims in 2016. The July 2017 issue of Narrowing the Gap outlined the difficult role of law enforcement in the prevention and prosecution of hate crimes and reporting issues that lead to gaps in the data. As with the previous indicator, it should be noted that an increase in reporting—which would result in a negative change to our indicator—may suggest more accurate identification of cases, not only an increase in the number of crimes.