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Brooklyn Initiative Where Residents Police Themselves Could Redefine Law Enforcement In New York

A concept in which New York City neighbors are policing themselves for five days at a time throughout the year has been recently tested out.

Brownsville In Violence Out
Photo Credit: Brownsville In Violence Out (BIVO) Facebook

Brownsville In Violence Out (BIVO) -- a Brooklyn anti-gun violence initiative -- tried the strategy in April.

In the five days that 911 calls were averted to BIVO instead of the police, according to the NY Times. In this process, neighbors “persuaded people to turn in illegal guns, prevented shoplifting, kept a man from robbing a bodega and stopped a pregnant woman from hitting a boyfriend who had not bought a car seat and a stroller as he had promised.”

With continuing these efforts, organizers believe this strategy “could redefine law enforcement in New York."

Brooklyn’s anti-gun initiative is a part of The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Crisis Management System.

In those five days, “unless there is a major incident or a victim demands an arrest, officers, always in plainclothes, shadow the workers.”

BIVO members respond to lower-level crimes on the streets. But agencies are still taking a stance on improving the community, offering services such as free childcare and addiction recovery at folding tables, distributing pamphlets and offering passers-by with games, stress balls and pens.

Assisting these agencies in a better community is BIVO, which is a part of the Brownsville Safety Alliance -- a larger network of city and neighborhood groups, as well as police officers and King County District Attorney’s office members.

Brooklyn is providing $2.1 million in the next three years “to help link the local organizations that participate most frequently in the Safety Alliance so that they can work cohesively throughout the year.”

Some community members remain skeptical. But many are hopeful on the possibilities of hindering violence and stopping their neighbors on going into the criminal justice system.

BIVO assistant program manager, Nyron Campbell said everyone feels more safe.

“We feel more safe. We can walk without feeling anxiety,” Campbell said.

This initiative comes on the heels of when T-shirt salesman, Kwesi Ashun, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, was shot and killed after “he swung at an officer with a chair at a nail salon.”

Brownsville residents had already been concerned over the rising aggression from police, saying that officers were “grabbing men off the street to arrest them for minor offenses.”

The Brooklyn organization is part of a larger movement -- the community responder model -- after protests swept the country following George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police. The model “aims to reduce the use of armed officers to handle many calls.”

Other similar movements are Eugene, Ore, Denver and Rochester, New York, among other cities.


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