This morning brought the news of the arrests of 20 alleged gang members in East Flatbush. Will that bring peace to Ditmas Park as well?
Our neighborhood is in the middle of a wave of violent crime far outside citywide trends, or any local violence, in the last decade. Here’s this week’s toll: two dead and two wounded, and it is just Thursday. We are an outsized part of the modest citywide increase in violence: murders have risen by 5 percent in the city during the first six months of 2015, jumping from 165 last year to 174 this year, according to city statistics. Ditmas Park alone accounts for about a quarter of that increase.
Longterm residents are getting flashbacks. “This is getting just as bad as it was in the early 2000s,” Flatbush Development Corporation Executive Director Robin Redmond told our reporter. And they are not wrong. According to the very limited figures the NYPD releases, there were nine murders in the 70th precinct in the whole of 1998. So far this year there have been six per the most recent CompStat, plus the two shooting deaths this week.
Residents are telling us they want more effective policing — beginning with a clear explanation from the 70 of what is going on, and what is being done about it.
According to the DCPI, only one arrest has been made in the shooting deaths this year — Kyle Reneau, 26, of East Flatbush was charged with murder of Jeffrey Middleton. No arrests have been made in the shooting deaths of Donel Andrew (03/21), Sharief Clayton and Ronald Murphy (04/27), Raphael Kurton (05/26), Ian Caicedo (07/01), Harold Abodia (7/13), Adetunji Ajakaye (7/15). Five of them were our neighbors.
We can’t help suspecting that the blasé police attitude has to do with the victims’ own criminal pasts. Is that why the police, and City Hall for that matter, aren’t taking this crime wave seriously? Are we waiting for an innocent bystander to get killed? Obviously a toddler being hit by bullets is not enough.
Meanwhile, neighbors have a reasonable sense that guns are just everywhere. The owner of the Smoke Shop said that when he looked at surveillance footage following Kurton’s death, he “saw at least four kids who had guns.”
In the absence of any official attention to this crisis, we’ve heard different suggestions from community members for what should be done. At the rally following the killing of Raphael Kurton, Borough President Eric Adams said a top priority needs to be addressing firearms in our neighborhood. “We have to make sure illegal guns don’t make it into the streets,” he said.”We should spend the next days organizing how we’re going to create a safe space for our children and families.”
We should form block watches. We should put up more cameras. Better cameras. But what is being done by the police and the city to get the guns off the streets, and stop our neighbors from being killed?
We have heard that there is a war between rival crews going on — a gang war would fit the pattern of why the rest of crimes are relatively low; though the police would not confirm it. “We can’t continue to ignore we have a gang problem,” Borough President Eric Adams told us yesterday.
Mayor de Blasio and Commanding Officer DiBlasio: Why are people getting shot dead at an alarming rate in Ditmas Park/ Flatbush? And what are you doing to stop it?