There is no shortage of events in Southeast Queens to decry gun violence — rallies, marches, meetings, safety events, gun buybacks — but the shootings continue. Some community leaders insist these programs serve a purpose, while others are at a loss for what else they can do.
The latest such event was held Sunday in Jamaica, and its aim was to promote “unity in the community.” Among those in attendance was Leroy Gadsden, president of the Jamaica NAACP.
He called on those who are able to intervene and stop violence, to do so. He encouraged those who witness crimes to report them. Gadsden stressed the need for youth programs and a strong family environment. Further, Gadsden demanded that the city allot money to community programs that provide positive and viable alternatives to crime.
“We speak to those who would bring harm on their own people, we say to you that we love you, but you have to change your ways. Yes, you are a part of us, but we cannot accept your behavior,” Gadsden said. “We accept you, but your behavior has to go. We ask that you stop and think about what you are doing.”
But are Gadsden’s words just falling on deaf ears?
Felonies are on the rise at all three precincts in Southeast Queens. At the 105th Precinct in Queens Village, crime is up 7.5 percent for the year to date through Aug. 5, according to the latest CompStat report. At the 103rd Precinct in Jamaica it has increased 7.3 percent for the same time period and at the 113th, also in Jamaica, it has climbed nearly 6 percent.
On Aug. 8, one day after the National Night Out Against Crime, an annual event by police precincts to encourage communities to adopt ways to fight crime, Sgt. Craig Bier, a member of the NYPD’s Queens gang unit, was shot and wounded in Jamaica. The alleged assailant, John Thomas, remains at large.
Donna Clopton, president of the 103rd Precinct Community Council, said the inability to get a handle on gun violence is “frustrating,” and she said she felt angry after hearing what happened to Bier. But Clopton still supports the NNOAG, and noted that the precinct has a large turnout every year.
“I think it does some good,” Clopton said. “It gets people talking. We get an audience. Some are gang members. It lets people know what they can do.”
Clopton also said the safety event helps erode at the “don’t snitch” mentality and the idea that police officers are adversaries as opposed to protectors. She also stressed the need for stop and frisk and added that at the moment a lot of leaders are at a loss for what more they can do to protect their communities.
“The gun violence is like a disease,” Clopton said. “It’s an epidemic. It’s very troubling. When does it stop?”
Kevin Livingston, a bank employee known for giving business attire to gang members as part of his 100 Suits for 100 Men program, said he thinks people are taking the wrong approach to curbing crime.
“It’s like we’re waving the white flag,” he said. “We’re not doing anything proactive. You can’t be reactive. You have to be proactive.”
In line with that, Livingston is having a march against violence at 1 p.m. on Sept. 8 starting at 110th Avenue and 160th Street in Jamaica and stopping at Parsons Boulevard and Archer Avenue, where representatives from trade schools will be on hand to recruit students and there will be other job training and education opportunities. For more information, contact Livingston at (347) 472-2519.
In 2009, the NYPD and Queens District Attorney’s Office took over 900 guns off the streets of Southeast Queens with a gun buyback program. In June, after much public outcry, the Queens Borough President’s Office held another one, but that time only 55 weapons were collected. Despite the low turnout, there will be another gun buyback at New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Jamaica on Saturday. It is being sponsored by state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica), WPIX 11 and the city Housing Authority.