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Queens Chronicle

Residents mixed on safety as killings rise

All precincts in Southeast Queens reporting increases in homicides

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Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2012 10:30 am

The streets of Jamaica are becoming increasingly unsafe with the 113th Precinct ranked fifth worst citywide for shootings this year, and the other two precincts that cover Southeast Queens — the 103rd and the 105th — also reporting an increase in killings. It has gotten so bad that the borough president is shelling out $50,000 to have a one-day gun buyback program along with the NYPD at a church within the 113th’s area.

Even though there were two men shot dead last week in Jamaica, and one assault victim who later succumbed to his injuries, residents of Southeast Queens are mixed on whether they feel safe to walk the streets, if the police are doing all they can to curb crime and whether the stop-and-frisk policy is effective or simply glorified racial profiling.

In the three most most recent deaths, no one was immediately arrested and the police are continuing their investigations into the incidents. The first shooting victim was Euton Christian, 22, of Forest Road in Valley Stream, shot dead on June 13 at around 11 p.m. at 156 Street and 111 Avenue in Jamaica, according to the NYPD.

When officers arrived at the scene, they found Christian with multiple bullet wounds to the torso. EMS transported the victim to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Homicides in the 113th Precinct, which is where the Christian shooting occurred, have increased by 80 percent since last year through June 3, according to the latest CompStat report, going from five in 2011 to nine in 2012.

To curb crime, the 113th Precinct has just assigned 40 police officers to monitor Linden Boulevard from Farmers Boulevard to 205th Street from 7:30 p.m. to 4 a.m., according to Vivian McMillan, president of the 113th Precinct Community Council. There are also 30 more cops assigned to cover Guy R. Brewer Boulevard from Linden Boulevard to 137th Avenue, and also all along Sutphin Boulevard from 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., she said.

“We are really concerned about all these shootings and getting the guns off the streets,” McMillan said. “These young people have no consideration for human life. We, as a community, have to do something. This violence has got to stop.”

Despite the increase in shootings in the area, Sam Greaves, who has lived near where the Christian killing occurred since 1997, said he is not fearful after the crime. In fact, on Monday afternoon, he was sitting on the front steps of his home casually chatting with a friend who was visiting from Rosedale.

“I don’t feel afraid at all,” he said. ‘Since I’ve lived here nothing like this has happened. If I was afraid, I wouldn’t be sitting out here. It’s a peaceful neighborhood, no incidents.”

Greaves said he was asleep when the shooting occurred and didn’t hear anything. He said he knew something was wrong when he saw police officers taking pictures and questioning himself and his neighbors.

A 36-year-old black man was shot in the upper torso near Liberty Avenue and Remington Street in Jamaica on June 17 at around 4:43 a.m., according to the NYPD. The victim was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where he later died, police said. The identity of the man is being withheld pending family notification.

On Monday afternoon, about four blocks from where the crime occurred, Thomas Peterkin was out walking his pit bull. He said the reason he believes shootings have increased in the neighborhood is because the police are using stop and frisk on innocent people like himself, rather than detaining those who are armed and dangerous.

“I’m not really afraid, but there are definitely a lot of unnecessary shootings,” Peterkin said. “The policemen don’t single out people. They just go for anybody. They aren’t doing anything to catch the people who are really doing the shootings.”

Peterkin, 18, recalled a recent encounter with the police while he was on the way to an area barber shop for a haircut. “The policemen — one of them was acting like a gang-banger,” he said. “He was like ‘Yeah, what up blood?’ and I was just laughing because I was with my older brother from Staten Island and he’s not used to this. He was like ‘You got any weapons? We’re not looking for drugs. We’re looking for the guns.’”

Peterkin said he told the officers he was unarmed and volunteered to be patted down, which he said the officer did in an aggressive manner. When he didn’t find anything, Peterkin said he was still spoken to in an accusatory fashion.

“Then he was like ‘All right, I’m going to see you.’ What does that mean? I was just going to get a haircut,” Peterkin said.

Anthony Feurtado, a real estate agent with Green Team Realty on Linden Boulevard in St. Albans, had similar concerns, about stop and frisk. He doesn’t believe its effective as evidenced by the increase in shootings in Southeast Queens, and said the policy is only serving to alienate the community and strain its relationship with law enforcement. Feurtado said there are locations where the police congregate and randomly stop people like at Roy Wilkins Park, at Baisley and Merrick boulevards and at Linden and Merrick boulevards.

“My neighborhood is being targeted and it’s a police state,” he said. “When I’m in Forest Hills and other places, that stuff doesn’t happen. The Constitution protects us. I can’t just walk into a neighborhood and just because I think a crime could be committed put you up against a wall and check you for ID and harass you. If you see something going on and there’s probable cause, then yeah, you can do that.”

In 2011, 685,724 city residents were stopped by the police, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. Of those, 605,328, or 88 percent, were innocent. Some 350,743, or 53 percent of those stopped were black, 223,740 were Latino and 61,805 were white. However, 90 percent of shooting suspects and victims are black or Hispanic, according to the Police Department.

The violence isn’t just happening in the evening and early morning hours. George Ayala, 35, was assaulted in broad daylight in Jamaica and later died, according to the NYPD. The incident occurred at around 10:50 a.m. on June 10 near 161st Street and 89th Avenue, an area where several homeless shelters are located and police presence is usually high.

The officers found Ayala, of 89th Avenue, lying on the ground with severe head trauma.EMS transported him to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where he died from his injuries on June 16. The medical examiner will determine the cause of death.

The NYPD is asking for the public’s help in identifying the four suspects wanted in connection with the incident. The first assailant is described as a black man, 6 feet tall with a medium build and short black hair. He was last seen wearing a polo shirt with yellow and blue horizontal stripes, black pants and a black baseball hat with a yellow brim.

The second suspect is a black man, 5 feet 9 inches tall with a thin build and short black hair. He was last seen wearing a black button down collared shirt, black pants and a black baseball hat.

The third suspect is a black man, 6 feet 2 inches tall with a medium build. He was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, dark colored pants and a red baseball hat.

The fourth suspect is described as a Hispanic man, approximately 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a medium build, who was last seen wearing a black T-shirt with white writing on the front, green cargo shorts and a black baseball hat turned backwards.

Homicides within the 103rd Precinct, which is where the second shooting and the Ayala beating occurred, have increased by 20 percent for the year to date through June 10, according to the latest CompStat report, going from five in 2011 to six in 2012.

“We are very concerned,” said Donna Clopton, president of the 103rd Precinct Community Council. “Hopefully we can get other people in the community riled up, and we can finally get these guns off the street.”

Homicides within the 105th Precinct have increased by 100 percent for the year to date through June 10, according to the latest CompStat report, going from two in 2011 to four in 2012. Rose Funderberk, president of the 105th Precinct Community Council, could not be reached by press time.

Arthur Broadbelt, who has owned an insurance business on Farmers Boulevard in St. Albans since 1971, said he is so used to the neighborhood, having evolved along with it over the decades, that he hasn’t noticed an increase in crime, but when he hears about violence occurring, he tries to be more alert. And he thinks residents should be doing their part to stop the killings.

“I think it’s a community thing,” he said. “Policing can only do so much. I’m critical of the police when it’s time to be critical of the police, but there comes a time when you feel that the community has to do something.”

Broadbelt said he believes if parents spoke with their children more and had a closer relationship with them, it could prevent some of the violence, because then youngsters would be less likely to join gangs. He is also a proponent of youth mentoring programs and volunteers with one at his church, the Brooks Memorial United Methodist Church in Jamaica.

“The police’s job is to catch you and lock you up, so I don’t know what they could do as far as prevention,” Broadbelt said. “Prevention, I think, is a community thing. The police do their job. They do what they are trained to do. They are not trained for prevention.”

Anyone with information about the shootings or assault is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 577-TIPS (8477).The public can also submit tips by logging onto nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting 274637 (CRIMES), then entering TIP577. All tips are strictly confidential.

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