NY tries to reduce gun violence with new state agency | New York News

By MARINA VILLENEUVE, Associated Press

ALBANY, NY (AP) — An administrator with a background in poverty alleviation and public health was appointed by the governor on Wednesday to lead a new state agency that will attempt to address gun violence.

Calliana Thomas, a longtime resident of Harlem, will lead the state’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced.

Thomas previously worked on gun violence prevention programs for seven years with the New York City Department of Health and also served as deputy director of technical assistance at an institute affiliated with the Harlem Children’s Zone, a development group youth, the governor’s office said.

The new state agency, part of the state health department, will examine the drivers and effects of gun violence, Hochul said.

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“What drives people to this, and what is going on in their emotional and psychological world that might drive people to these decisions?” said the Democrat.

Hochul announced the appointment before the first meeting of a new interstate working group dedicated to improving the tracing of illegal weapons.

“We have the ability to have interdiction efforts along our border with Pennsylvania, identifying gun shows where people buy guns, loading up a trunk and coming by 81 or the highway 90 west of New York,” Hochul said. “And then the weapons are found in particular in our cities. And that’s the level of traffic we want to focus on.

Statewide violent crime has steadily declined in recent years, but shootings have increased in New York City and across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York’s overall violent crime rate remains lower than the national average, and even lower than it was in the state just four years ago, according to federal data. But the sudden surge that began in 2020 has eroded years of progress and raised fears the trend may continue.

Hochul’s budget proposal includes more funding for tracking gun crimes, as well as hiring more social media analysts to help police investigators.

“That way we can find out what the trends are early on,” Hochul said. “What are people talking about? What is gossip? And perhaps identify individuals who are about to buy guns or traffic guns, or even commit crimes.

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