In a bid to curb violent crime, Mayor Eric Adams announces major expansion of Summer Youth Employment Program
New York is set to offer a record 100,000 summer job opportunities for young people in the city. In a press conference on Tuesday, Mayor Eric Adams announced a major expansion of the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), alongside additional jobs that are being created in other city programs, in a bid to curb rising violent crime.
In the wake of a series of violent crimes that have taken place earlier this year – including the shooting of two policemen, a teen and an infant – Adams had vowed to make the city safe through a series of reforms targeted at the city’s young population. “We want them to be in an environment where they are exposed to the opportunity that other children get,” Adams said at the press conference.
The expansion comes in part through a new $79 million investment that will see employment opportunities through the SYEP rise to 90,000, the highest in the program’s 60-year history. “I know so many kids who wanted to work but there were no more slots so they spent the summer being broke and home or outside in the streets,” said Jeanette Moreno, 36, mother to a teenager who has participated in SYEP through her high school.
Her daughter’s school is affiliated with a hospital where she was able to work last summer. “She met so many different people and was strongly encouraged to work towards something in the medical field,” Moreno said. “She was literally excited to go every morning, which was amazing to see.”
Yolanda Roberson, program director for the Boys and Girls Club of Madison Square, said while the selection process will still largely be based on a lottery, more slots this summer means more options for those who missed out on submitting applications last year. “They’ll be able to earn some money and learn how to manage money as well, and develop a sense of responsibility,” she added.
Criminal activity during the warmer months is typically the highest in the city. Expansion of the program is part of Mayor Adams’ strategy to keep the youth engaged with something other than crime, come summer.
“The more young people are engaged in productive employment opportunities, the better,” said Marcel Braithwaite, community outreach director of the youth development non-profit Police Athletic League. “That’s less young people that might get caught up in something where they’re just bystanders or less young people who might follow a friend.”
Braithwaite, however, also feels that the youth that partakes in crime probably won’t be the ones signing up for SYEP.
While researchers are unsure about the immediate impact of SYEP participation on criminal activity, long-term trends indicate a gradual reduction in crime rates. “That effect has been found across several studies, cities, and population sizes, making SYEPs one of the few policy interventions that have proved capable of meaningfully scaling,” wrote Charles Lehman, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, in a report published this year.
Research has shown that youth that are involved with summer youth employment programs are less likely to be arrested throughout the duration of the program, and also after the program ends. “There’s also evidence that it puts them on a safer path,” said Judd Kessler, associate professor at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. “We find that youth are less likely to be incarcerated in New York State Prison, and also more likely to be alive when you look a number of years past the program.”
J.T. Falcone, senior policy analyst for United Neighborhood Houses (UNH), is one of the many people who have advocated for more job opportunities for the youth, both through SYEP and other initiatives. Falcone said most of the students who participate in the program come from low-income families as well as minority communities, many of whom depend on public benefits.
According to an annual SYEP summary from 2019, 44% of the youth that worked that year were Black, 25% were Hispanic and 12% were Asian. “Especially during the pandemic, we saw that people had been using the $1,500 that they get through wages to help support their families,” Falcone said. “This is more than just a six-week summer job really, it’s an economic boon for communities.”