Life in bullet town: Why is this Brooklyn neighborhood being bombarded with gun violence this year?

Officer guards Brooklyn park in community plagued by gun violence
The confines of the 73rd Precinct in Brownsville, Brooklyn has seen 29 shooting incidents in the area resulting in 35 victims. The same neighborhood is also leading the way in homicides with a staggering 13 people dead as of June 11. 
Photo by Dean Moses

At the Hilltop Playground in Brownsville, Brooklyn, children happily snacked on ice cream and moms lovingly watched younger kids laugh as they climbed jungle gyms just a week after two young girls had been shot there.

Life went on at the park on June 10 without a care even though at that same spot on June 3, the two girls, ages 9 and 11, were hit by stray gunshots that a reckless, teenage shooter indiscriminately fired in the playground. The youngsters, forever scarred by the incident, were hospitalized and will make a recovery; they are the lucky ones.

So far in 2024, Brownsville and surrounding communities in the 73rd Precinct‘s confines have been utterly bombarded with deadly gun violence. According to NYPD data so far in 2024, there have been 29 shooting incidents in the area resulting in 35 victims. The same neighborhood is also leading the way in homicides with a staggering 13 people dead as of June 11. 

Those outside the community are left with one question: Why? amNewYork Metro visited the community and spoke to residents and NYPD officials hoping to answer that critical question.

A disturbing trend of gun violence continued in Brownsville, Brooklyn on June 3, 2024, when two young cousins were shot while playing in a park, police confirmed.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell


Beneath the bustling exterior, many Brownsville residents say they are fearful of a growing level of gun violence that could strike them or their families at any moment.

“I am scared. I try not to go outside at night,” said a local resident, who identified herself as Liz. “The two little girls were shot in the park I cross every day. It’s getting out of control.”

According to Chief Crime Control Strategies Michael Lipetri, the spate of shootings ironically comes one year after what he called a “historic” low in shootings for the 73rd Precinct, comparing 2023 to only having two other better years in about three decades.

Chief Lipetri says that much of the gun violence resurgence is the result of warring gangs and drug beefs.

“Unfortunately, this year we see an uptick in gang and crew violence, and we’ve seen an uptick in some of the older victims. Seven of the 11 murder victims are over 30 in the 73. We do tie that to some narcotics issues going on and we also tie one to prostitution,” Chief Lipetri said.

amNewYork Metro quizzed Chief Lipetri on the Hilltop Playground shooting of the two young girls that has scarred locals. Lipetri revealed that cops were able to apprehend the shooter, who turned out to be a 15-year-old boy.

“That individual, 15 years old, was out walking the streets after being arrested last year for a shooting — so, 14 years old,” Chief Lipetri said. “Arrested last year for a shooting and is out walking around the streets in the 73, and gets arrested with another gun.”

A disturbing trend of gun violence continued in Brownsville, Brooklyn on June 3, 2024, when two young cousins were shot while playing in a park, police confirmed.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

For Lipetri, this leads into ongoing gang issues, with a high concentration involving NYCHA housing-based gangs. The chief noted that young members of the crews are participating in gang violence, with Lipetri stating that 20% of all shooting victims in the confines of the precinct are under the age of 18.

“We have multiple issues right now going on in the 73, with multiple crews feuding,” Chief Lipetri said. “Some of the housing developments are right next to each other and they feud because of different crews they belong to.”

Gang wars are nothing new and have ravaged the city for decades, so the question remains: Why now after a historically good year?

According to police brass, it is largely due to the recent release of unspecified gang members who served their time, and reconnected with their old partners in crime.

“Slowly individuals will get out of jail, and then we’ll see an uptick and that’s what’s happening here,” Lipetri said. 

“This is what they are built for”

Chief Lipetri said the NYPD has a good rapport with local community groups who work with them and also want to see the gun violence ended.

Along with partnering with civilian violence response groups, Lipetri added that the department is surging hundreds of cops into the area each day, particularly in troublesome spots like East New York Avenue and New Lots Avenue.

“But not just patrol officers. We put actual detectives in there, both in the detective squads and then narcotics teams, gun violence,” Chief Lipetri said.

NYPD Chief Michael Lipetri says the department is surging hundreds of cops each day into the Brownsville area.Photo by Dean Moses

Data drives the NYPD’s decision regarding where to place cops around the city, and it is no different in the 73rd Precinct. This coming summer, more cops will be added to the area (as many as 50-60 in the 73rd Precinct alone) and other neighborhoods around the city where shootings are prevalent.

Police say they are also deploying the Gun Violence Suppression Division, a specialized task force that works in conjunction with detectives to remove gang members off the street.

“This is what they’re built for, they are built to look at gang investigation,” Chief Lipetri said. “We have our best, our Gun Violence Suppression Division working with the local detective squad and try to focus on the most violent individuals within the 73 and that’s precision.”

‘It takes a village’

While police say they are hard at work trying to prevent more bloodshed, some residents say that it is up to the elders of the community to keep their small patch of land safe.

A 44-year-old longtime resident of Brownsville, who did not want to share his name, sat on a bench near the entrance to Hilltop Playground, keeping a watchful eye over those entering and exiting the park. 

He told amNewYork Metro that after serving two decades in prison himself, he returned to Brownsville only to see widespread changes in the community’s appearance — yet prevalent crime and scarce economic opportunities and resources.

“I’ve been living here since 1979,” the man said, “It got better, they fixed up a lot as far as when I left. I got locked up in 1998. But there is no jobs, no activities for the kids and there is just idleness and that’s where the problems happen.” 

In light of this, the man cited the adage that, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and said that he works on his own to keep an eye on the community and protect local residents. 

“It makes me feel that I have to protect myself and those around me. I am watching to make sure no one starts anything. There are no jobs, no activities, but back in the day we used to have trips, basketball games, giveaways, all that stuff doesn’t exist anymore,” the man said. 

The trail of gun violence

Gun violence hit Brownsville just four days into the new year with a 27-year-old shot on 335 Sutter Avenue. Since then, there have been numerous shootings that resulted in deaths.

There have been 29 shooting incidents in the confines of the 73rd Precinct, including: 

  • A 27-year-old shot at 335 Sutter Avenue on Jan. 4, 2024 

  • A 45-year-old man shot and killed at Livonia Avenue and Rockaway Ave. on Jan. 14. 

  • A 30-year-old man was shot at 1592 Eaon Jan. 16

  • Two officers were shot and injured while responding to a domestic dispute on 1969 Bergen Street on Jan. 16. 
  • A 34-year-old man was shot at 720 Kingsborough 7 walk on Jan. 19

  • A 36-year-old Sutter Avenue and Ralph Ave on Jan. 22. 

  • A 28-year-old was shot and killed at 1275 Herkimer Street 28 year old on Jan. 24

  • A 19-year-old man was shot at 365 Thatford Avenue on Feb. 20

  • A 17-year-old boy was shot at 220 Livonia Avenue on Feb. 24. 

  • An 18-year-old boy was shot at New York Avenue and Stone Avenue on March 7.

  • A 23-year-old man shot at 719 Kingsborough 7 Walk on March 10. 

  • A 37-year-old shot and killed at 277 Sutter Avenue on March 13. 

  • A 29-year-old man was shot at 1 Brookdale Plz March 13. 

  • An 11-year-old boy was shot at 324 Howard Avenue 11 year old on April 8. 

  • Two people were shot, a 50-year-old was shot and killed and 41-year-old injured at 444 Mother Gaston Boulevard on April 8.

  • A 55-year-old man was shot and killed at 1625 Eastern Parkway on April 19.

  • A 25-year-old was shot at 777 Saratoga Avenue on May 2. 

  • Two people were shot and one was killed at 91 Junius Street on May 3. 

  • A 30-year-old man was shot at 365 Thatford Avenue on May 6. 

  • A 37-year-old man was shot at 230 Lott Avenue on May 6.

  • A 24-year-old man was shot and killed at 2274 Strauss Street on May 12.

  • Two people were shot, a 28-year-old was was injured and 30-year-old was killed at 101 Osborn Street  killed May 18. 

  • A 24-year-old man was shot at Stone Avenue and New Lotsave on May 19.

  • A 19-year-old girl was shot on 2130 Union Street on May 25. 

  • A 14-year-old boy was shot and killed at 80 Osborn Street on June 2. 

  • Two girls, a 9-year-old and 11-year-old were shot at Thomas Boyland Street and Dean Street on June 3. 

  • A 27-year-old man was shot at St. Marks Avenue and Thomas S Boyland Street on June 4. 

  • A 58-year-old man was shot on 14000 E New York Avenue on June 8. 

  • Two people were shot at 335 Sutter Avenue on June 8.