Finding Big Numbers in Investing in Kids (Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor’s Office)

The drumbeat of headlines suggesting youth gun violence in New York City and the state may attract attention, but these headlines are deeply misleading. New Yorkers are right to be concerned about the safety of their communities. However, going back to the failed, punitive policies of the past is not the answer.

Gun violence is real, and children are far more likely to be victims of gun violence than perpetrators. For example, in New York City in 2021 (the last year for which full-year data is available), 95 of the 2,011 shooting incidents on record were committed by a minor. Only 28 of these shootings met the description of a juvenile offender harming a juvenile victim; A minor was the victim in 156 of all incidents.

Although similar gun violence data are not available for all of New York State, state-level data illustrate a decline in youth crime in New York City and the state. Over the past decade, youth arrests have fallen by 80%, and arrests for major (index) crimes have similarly fallen by 79%.

New York’s raising-the-age law holds young people under 18 accountable when they are involved in shootings and other serious crimes. All 16- and 17-year-olds are charged with criminal acts in the youth part of the adult criminal court. If they are accused of shooting or even displaying a deadly weapon, or of causing significant bodily harm, the case remains in adult court, where adult penalties apply.

Cases that are initiated or removed to family court may result in custody, access to individual and family-based counseling, intensive case management, and educational and counseling support, as well as short- and long-term court-ordered residential placements. It is wrong to characterize increasing age as decreasing liability.

Progressive policy and budget commitments that improve community safety and child and family well-being should always be paramount. Shamefully, the misguided call to criminalize children and youth not only ignores the facts on increasing age, but they also distract from other disturbing statistics that should push every New Yorker and elected representative for urgent and immediate action.

There are more than 4 million children in New York State and more than 700,000 of them live in poverty; More than 114,000 are homeless. More than 800,000 New York families with children do not have enough food to eat. The state’s subsidized child care system reaches less than 10% of eligible children. And although there is little public data on the behavioral health status of all children, 20% of female and 17% of male students in New York have considered suicide in a recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for children and youth aged 10 to 24. These things demand attention.

Child poverty, homelessness, hunger and behavioral health crises should be headline statistics, and state leaders must ask themselves: What am I prepared to do to address these pressing needs?

New York’s children and families deserve a state budget that meaningfully invests in them – raising income by raising the minimum wage and expanding child care for low-income families and implementing tax reform; Addressing hunger by funding universal school meals; Stabilize housing and combat homelessness by supporting a statewide housing access voucher program; improving early child development and family stability through investments in early intervention and child welfare prevention; and addressing child and adolescent behavioral health crises by investing heavily in community-based clinical services.

The state budget must do more than increase age-appropriate resources but must ensure access to funding to all counties, including New York City, and community-based youth programs within them.

Prioritizing these investments is the surest path to safety, recovery and wellness for all New Yorkers as fiscal year 2024 state budget negotiations finalize.

Jennifer March is the executive director of the Citizens Committee for Children of New York. on Twitter @genmarchccc And @CCCNewYork.

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