In response to the recent rash of horrific gun violence in communities across New York City, a cadre of politicians came together Sunday morning to put together a plan to reduce violence in the communities that have been most affected.
ÚGun violence is one of the most serious issues facing our city and state. Innocent lives – too often children — are ended because of trivial disputes and carelessness,” New York Gov. David Paterson said in a release.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn agreed. “The rise in gun violence is devastating communities around our city. With crime going down across the board citywide, it’s completely unacceptable that neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn and parts of Harlem are being left behind.”
The event was attended by some of the most influential leaders in New York politics, including Paterson, Congressman Charlie Rangel and state Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith, among others.
Smith, one of the organizers of the event, was quick to point out the losing battle that had been waged in the city against illegal guns and those that end up in the hands of minors.
“We are losing a battle much greater than any one official,” Smith said. “We, as public officials, clergy and community leaders must take a more aggressive approach to coming up with solutions to stop the growing gun violence on our city streets.”
With that losing battle in mind, the group unveiled what it called “Operation SNUG,” — guns spelled backwards — that is designed to pull together what, up until now, have been many disparate efforts and concentrate them into one unified anti-gun force.
ýhe four branches of the program will represent myriad approaches, among them: a public relations campaign, using celebrities to reach out to children through public service announcements, increased support for local police officers and designated officials trained in violence intervention, new, tougher gun legislation at all levels of government and employment opportunities for groups that reach out to members of inner city gangs.
Not everyone in the troubled communities was pleased with the event, however.
Liz Goldsmith, founder and president of Mothers Against Guns, an organization with a long history in southeastern Queens, had some choice words for the public representatives who came out Sunday.
“It’s a lot of grandstanding,” she said. “You can’t wait until something happens to then stand up and say what we need. It’s a daily occurrence. They should have been doing something a long time ago.”
Goldsmith believes that communities, like southeastern Queens, which have been affected by gun violence for decades, are not helped by meetings and conversations. She thinks the real measure of change in a community is when resources, like money for community centers and education programs, materializes.
“(These representatives) know, or they should know, what is happening in their community,” she said. “Many of them wait until something high-profile happens, then you see them standing side by side with the victims’ families. I would love to see every resident go to these representatives offices and demand that they step up to the plate or step down.”
Gun violence has been in the news all over the city recently, with shootings cropping up in Manhattan and the Rockaways over the last two weeks, and an increase in gun violence in Brooklyn over the last three months.
The Redfern Community Houses in the Rockaways hosted a precursor to the recent meetings, with speeches from Smith and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
That meeting ended with a pledge to secure city funds for security items including surveillance cameras and to reopen a community center which had been closed recently due to a lack of funds.
Everyone in the area feels that an increase in police presence is necessary, and are worried because NYPD enrollment rates have dropped steadily in recent months.