Pols, D.A. Forge Action Plan
Legislators from southeastern Queens joined Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall at a press conference in Kew Gardens last Friday, Aug. 17, to pledge support to help stem the increase in gun violence which has caused injury to-and claimed the lives of-innocent community members.
Taking part in the meeting were Rep. Gregory Meeks, State Senators Malcolm Smith and Shirley Huntley, Assembly Members Barbara Clark, Vivian Cook, Michele Titus and William Scarborough and City Council Members Leroy Comrie, James Sanders and Ruben Wills.
“The combination of easy access to guns, violence fueled by disputes between rival gangs and competing criminal enterprises vying for turf, decreases in police resources in high crime neighborhoods and community reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes has contributed to a sudden, deadly increase in gun violence in recent weeks-especially in southeast Queens,” Brown said. “As elected officials and members of the Queens community, it is imperative that we join our voices and be heard as one to denounce this recent and unacceptable level of gun violence and that each of us do our part in any way possible to end the violence.”
“The people of southeast Queens must decide whether we will live in a functional community where residents live in peace, safety and security or in a dysfunctional one where gun violence, lawlessness, and random or targeted killings are a way of life,” Meeks added. “I call upon my Southeast Queens constituents, together with the NYPD, prosecutors, local elected officials, clergy, community activists, neighborhood organizations, schools, civic associations, parents, and youth, to forge an alliance to oppose guns, criminality, build trust, guarantee that security is provided for those who speak out, and mobilize mutually reinforcing collaboration between the authorities and the community to remove guns from our lives and instill non-violence as a way of life for us all.”
“Communities must begin to act as a unit rather than merely as a group of individuals that happen to live in the same area,” Huntley said. “We should increase civilian patrols in our communities and we must restore some of the community programs that have fallen victim to budget cuts. We must develop a meaningful working relationship with the NYPD. We have to realize that gun violence is a threat to us all and that we all must play a role in keeping our communities safe.”
“Now is the time where every member of our community must come together to make a proactive commitment to see an end to this crippling gun violence,” Smith added. “The bullets that have been descending on our community have not discriminated based on age, race, religion, or social status. Every day of inaction will mean another child will go fatherless, another mother will lose her child, another brother will feel the pain of loss of a sibling, and someone will never see a loved one again.”
“We must involve the community in the dialogue and make the residents feel their voice is being heard as we work together on this issue that plagues our welfare,” Titus said. “The strategy must include the appropriate social services and viable programs for all in order to effectively combat this destruction.”
“Worse than all the recent bloodshed in southeast Queens was the deafening silence to the cries of help,” Wills added. “It is important that our combative efforts seek community input and adopt a proactive approach by working with the Police Department, civic associations, clergy and the District Attorney’s office.”
“Our streets and parks are integral to our lives and must be safe,” Marshall said. “It is time for everyone in our communities to step up – and if they see something, say something, so those perpetrating violent acts know that there is always someone who can identify them. We must all come together, communities, elected officials and police to reclaim our communities.”
According to the latest CompStat statistics, homicides have increased 28.6 percent in the Patrol Borough Queens South area in the past year while homicides in other areas of the city have dramatically declined. In addition, shooting incidents in Queens South have risen by 22.2 percent, the third highest jump in the city.
Concerned about the rise in homicides and shooting incidents, Brown and various elected officials in Queens met to address the problem and to discuss strategies for reducing gun violence. One of the outcomes of the meeting was an agreement among the officials to work together toward the following short and long term goals:
– Build a community coalition to deliver the clear and unequivocal message that carrying guns and committing acts of violence in Southeast Queens is unacceptable. Reinforce the message through clergy sermons, community rallies, events, lectures and concerts with support and participation by community and business leaders, elected officials and prominent individuals in the media, sports and entertainment fields.
– Educate community members about the fact that guns can be turned into local precincts for a cash payment of $100 a gun and increase the number of guns surrendered.
– Develop a public relations campaign encouraging community members to report illegal guns and violent crimes and cooperate with law enforcement by asking them to “Step Up for Your Community-If You See Something, Say Something.”
– Change the culture and create concrete incentives for local residents to stand up and speak out about crime and violence that impacts on their neighborhoods and families. Implement a variety of mechanisms to facilitate communication with law enforcement about dangerous situations or crimes-including hotlines, text messaging, or community/law enforcement liaisons.
– Support legislation that will limit access to assault weapons, handguns and high capacity ammunition clips by criminals and individuals with mental illness.
– Enforce existing gun laws strictly and fight for additional resources for drug treatment and mental health services, alternative to incarceration programs, after-school and summer programs for youth and other educational, recreational and youth employment programs.
– Improve communication and dialogue and foster trust between law enforcement and residents of local neighborhoods.
– Increase police resources in precincts where violent crime is high.
– Work to close down illegal businesses and limit the hours of all night establishments that are breeding grounds for underage drinking, gang activity, drug trafficking, prostitution and violence.
– Provide more information to community residents about existing programs and services and how to access them.
Brown expressed his thanks to Executive Assistant District Attorney Jesse J. Sligh and Supervising Assistant District Attorney Frederica E. Jeffries of the D.A.’s Special Prosecutions Division for coordinating their efforts to combat gun violence.