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Mayor Bill De Blasio Enlists Help Of Community Groups To Enforce Social Distancing

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio is making a move to eliminate racial disparity in social distancing enforcement by letting community groups take over the task.

Viral videos, like one showing police restraining a 15-year-old from East New York several weeks ago, convinced the mayor to enlist community help to educate communities of color about the need to wear masks and social distance in the era of COVID-19, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reports.

street corner resources
Members of Street Corner Resources pass out masks to those who need them. (Credit: CBS2)

The groups also give out masks to people who don't have them.

Street Corner Resources and Man Up are two of the participating groups.

"We're going to educate them to make sure that they're not arrested," said Sharlene Nash-Pryor, director of operations for Man Up. "We are community. We are known in the community, we work in the community and our cure violence members are people that are trusted in the community."

Weeks after CBS2 first reported the NYPD's own statistics that documented racial disparity and social distancing arrests and weeks after public officials like Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams called for community groups to get involved, de Blasio finally agreed to enlist the help of 18 so-called "cure violence" groups.

"This is a very exciting new initiative because it is the best way to move people when it's their own neighbors helping them to understand what will keep them safe," the mayor said.

RELATED STORY: NYPD To 'Reset' Social Distancing Enforcement, Focus On Large Gatherings, Mayor Says

The move is even more important with the city expecting hoards of New Yorkers to leave their apartments and fill the streets, parks and beaches this Memorial Day weekend. Members of the group have already been in the community to help stop violence.

"They are mediators, they are educators, they are people who stop violence before it even happens," de Blasio said.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea made it clear, police are seeking to avoid confrontation.

"You'll see a number of uniformed police officers both at the beaches as well as parks, but they are going to be out there as stewards. The last thing we want to do is be, at this stressful time for the city, resorting to summonses," Shea said.

RELATED STORY: NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea Pushes Back Strongly On Allegations Of 'Racist Policing' By The NYPD

In another move to give the expected Memorial Day crowds a place to go, the mayor opened up 13 more miles of streets to pedestrians and cyclists for a total of 43 miles of open streets.

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