Frederick Douglass wrote in 1855 that “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Douglass was not a member of law enforcement; in fact, he helped to establish the great American tradition of civil disobedience. But we believe that in those famous words lies the best crime-fighting strategy our City can have. When we adequately invest in our youth, we prevent crime. When we build strong children, we prevent them from coming into the criminal justice system later on, as broken women and men.
Crime and opportunity are inextricably linked. So while it remains our job to enforce the law, we also seize every opportunity we have to help build strong children. This is how we can make the safest big city in America even safer. We can build the strongest generation of New Yorkers yet.
Saturday Night Lights, our signature youth-development and violence prevention program, provides young people ages 11-18 with a safe, fun, and productive space to form meaningful bonds with peers and law enforcement. Since 2011, what began as a basketball program in West Harlem has expanded to include soccer, baseball, volleyball, tennis, and dance at 19 sites citywide.
In 2017, District Attorney Vance invested $58 million through our Criminal Justice Investment Initiative to create five “Youth Opportunity Hubs” which bring together neighborhood service providers and provide comprehensive support for children, teens, and young adults in underserved neighborhoods. These services include educational assistance, mentorship, employment training, trauma and substance abuse services, mental health counseling, housing and legal assistance, and recreational and arts programming, among many others.