In the past three years, C.M.S. has contributed to a fifteen-per-cent decline in shootings in the seventeen precincts with the highest levels of violence in the city, according to the Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence. Today, more than fifty nonprofits conduct C.M.S. work in twenty-two neighborhoods across New York. Funded by the city, their total budget is $37.4 million, and they employ a hundred and fifty full-time employees and two hundred seasonal ones. In early June, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he plans to increase C.M.S. spending by ten million dollars, hire additional workers, and expand programs to Soundview, Jamaica, Crown Heights, Flatbush, and Canarsie.
For the past four years, Elite Learners has been conducting C.M.S. work in Brownsville and East Flatbush. Jackson, a former teacher and college-prep counsellor in her thirties, grew up in Brownsville and founded Elite Learners, in 2016, to “be a support system for young people” in the community. She started out providing educational and mentorship services, and sent violence-prevention mediators to schools to help students navigate difficult people and blocks between school and their homes. From there, Jackson began a hospital-responder program, in which her employees aid victims of violent assault and help them find ways to avoid retaliation and more conflict. Before the coronavirus pandemic, Elite Learners employed twenty-five people.
During the lockdown, city officials classified C.M.S. team members as essential workers so that they could keep operating. “This is the first step to eliminate so many officers on the streets,” Jackson said. “C.M.S. workers are trained, and they know how to navigate difficult situations. They’re respected by people on the street, and they don’t come with typical police strategies.” The group’s annual budget of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars is partly made up of contributions from New York City Council members, the Department of Corrections, the Administration for Children’s Services, and other government agencies. “We do a lot of work with little funding,” Jackson went on. She said many anti-violence groups want to coexist with the police—but with departments that have dramatically scaled back their size and stopped using tactics that undermine community mediation; their work is radically different. “We can’t babysit cops,” Jackson said.