By Kevin Deutsch
In an effort to combat gang violence, Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres will introduce legislation on Wednesday guaranteeing jobs for all eligible 14 to 21 year olds in New York City who are ready and willing to work.
“Every young person who wants a job should be able to get one, period,” Torres told Bronx Justice News. “A job is a deterrent to violence and joining a gang.”
The “Right to Youth Employment” law would require the Department of Youth and Community Services to establish a universal employment program for kids in the designated age range who attend a middle or high school.
The program would provide a summertime or part-time school year job to all eligible applicants, with the department leveraging its connections in the public and private sectors to make sure there are enough employment slots to go around.
It would be designed to comply with all state labor laws, officials said.
The city Department of Small Business Services and Department of Education would also help develop the program. If passed, the law would take effect six months later.
Torres’ proposal comes amid continuing gang violence in the Bronx, which has been plagued by decades of retaliatory assaults and killings between teenage gang members.
Dozens of sets and crews, from gangs like the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, MS-13, and dozens more claim territory within the borough. Even as homicides and other violent crimes have fallen dramatically in recent years, the Bronx still endures a disproportionate number of murders and shootings – many of them attributed to gang beefs and gang-related drug dealing.
The Bronx has about 1.5 million residents—making up roughly 17 percent of New York City’s population—but the borough experienced 31 percent (91) of the city’s 295 murders last year, records show.
Torres’ legislation is inspired in part by the Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, the 15-year NYPD Explorer who was dragged out of a bodega on 183rd Street in Tremont last year and slashed to death with machetes and knives. More than a dozen alleged Trinitarios gang members face charges in connection with his killing.