ALBANY Seventeen counties will compete for $13 million as part of a new initiative to fight gun violence, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.
Cuomo outlined in his budget address Jan. 21 that he would shift money from the popular Operation IMPACT crime-fighting program to a new Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) initiative. State officials said the program will start immediately because they assume the money will approved in the budget.
Cuomo said the state's focus is toward rooting out gun violence. The counties eligible include: Albany, Broome, Dutchess, Erie, Monroe, Niagara, Rockland, Ulster and Westchester.
"This funding will give law enforcement agencies resources to reduce gun violence in their neighborhoods," Cuomo said in a statement. "I encourage local agencies to apply for this funding and work toward making New York's streets safer."
Started in 2004 under Gov. George Pataki, Operation Impact had been hailed as focusing the resources of police agencies toward areas of crime upstate, leading to a 14 percent decline in crime in those regions.
But Cuomo said in his budget that Operation Impact has largely led to a reduction in property crime.
The proposal comes after Cuomo last year shepherded through the Legislature a tough gun-control law that has been assailed by gun-rights groups.
The 17 counties that participated in Operation IMPACT will be eligible to compete for the new funding. Operation IMPACT was also funded through a competitive process.
Broome County Sheriff David Harder said Operation IMPACT has been working, and he questioned why there has to be a competition for the funding.
"To me that's kind of weird doing something like that," Harder said. "I don't understand why you have to go to try and outbid somebody for the money."
Cuomo said that violent crime was down 7.5 percent in the 17 jurisdictions in 2013, as compared to 2012, and down nearly 12 percent when the 10-year average between 2003 and 2012 is compared to 2013.
But at the same time, firearm-related homicides increased 4 percent, with 124 people killed by gun violence in 2013 compared to 119 in 2012.
Mike Green, commissioner of the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, said the crime statistics show a need to focus on gun violence. Green is the former district attorney in Monroe County, which was the first in the state to implement Operation IMPACT.
"IMPACT was looked at a way to give some additional help to police departments to focus on areas they needed to focus on," Green said. "Right now, if you look at the crime data, particularly outside New York City, it shows that shooting and homicides are the things we need to focus on."
To be eligible for the funding, municipalities need to develop a plan "to promote integrated, evidence-based strategies to reduce gun violence."
The plan also includes an expansion of the state's five crime analysis centers to be address gun violence. They are located in Albany, Broome, Erie, Monroe and Onondaga counties.
The state Department of Criminal Justice Services will host a conference next Tuesday in Albany to discuss the initiative.
Applications will be due in late March and the grants will be awarded in the late spring, state officials said.