Feb. 4, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
President Joe Biden visited a Long Island City elementary school Thursday to learn more about how community intervention programs can combat violent crime.
Biden visited P.S. 111 Jacob Blackwell, located at 37-15 13th St., to meet with school principal Dionne Jaggon and local violence interrupter teams tasked with de-escalating conflicts before they turn violent. The elementary school is situated between the Queensbridge and Ravenswood Houses– two NYCHA complexes where there have been several shootings in the past two years.
The president was joined by Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams, Queens DA Melinda Katz, Council Member Julie Won and other local leaders. His visit comes at a time when crime in New York City is on the rise. For instance, there were 100 shootings in January, up from the same period last year when 76 were reported.
Jaggon told Biden that the violence interrupter teams – operated by a non-profit group called Community Capacity Development (CCD) — had significantly reduced violence levels at the school, which had around 330 students enrolled last year.
The violence interrupter teams, Jaggon told Biden, use tools such as conflict mediation—which have made the school safer.
She said the CCD has also joined forces with the school to address food insecurity, financial illiteracy and a lack of after-school programming for students.
“As a school, we went from being persistently dangerous to a school in good standing and that happens with the power of partners,” Jaggon said.
Biden, wearing a black-colored mask, could be seen listening intently and directed several questions to Jaggon and members of the violence interrupter teams.
The president asked questions about the level of parental involvement at the school. Biden said that schools with low levels of violence often have a high parent participation rate.
“I know a lot about schools and one of the most difficult things… is the lack of participation of the parents,” Biden said.
- K. Bain, the founder of CCD, said that when educational and health needs in a community are not met, it often leads to violence. He said that community partnership programs, such as those with P.S. 111, are a model for the rest of the nation.
Biden reiterated his concerns surrounding parental involvement before Bain said that CCD also has outreach workers who act as “semi-guardians” for some high-risk young people in the community.
Meanwhile, Won said that the partnership between P.S. 111 and CCD shows that violence can be solved when compassion is combined with community investment.
“We can’t continue to meet violence with violence, we must recognize the undeniable power of a strong community in resolving the root causes of violence,” Won said in a statement.
“Organizations like CCD equip young people to not just interrupt violence but to prevent violence.”