New York City will spend $1.8 million this year to roll out “mobile trauma units” — buses filled with counselors and peacekeepers — to crime scenes throughout the city in an effort to ease tensions in communities after acts of gun violence, the Wall Street Journal reports. The buses will be deployed in January 2019 to each borough. Some team members have prior criminal records and former gang affiliations. Known as “violence interrupters,” they use their credibility and connections to resolve disputes before they escalate. “A lot of people don’t realize once the funeral is over, once the candles stop burning, once the media is gone, people are still suffering, people are still afraid,” said Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, former chair of the City Council’s public safety committee, who pushed for the initiative.
Eric Cumberbatch of the Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence said the program will likely cost $875,000 annually following the roll out. He said the program would help community members heal while allowing anti-violence advocates to take responsibility in ensuring public safety. Like the New York Police Department’s mobile-command posts, the advocates’ units will stay at crime scenes up to a week after crimes are committed. Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of law and police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said it would be hard to justify the use of such a program. “They’re going to try to stop retaliation. The claim will be since they intervened, there was no retaliation action,” O’Donnell said. “As with any preventive strategy, it’s going to be hard in this case to prove if they’ve actually had any success.”