On the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall, 101 pairs of shoes were arranged, a label under each pair announced “Black” or “Latino.” They represented the many dead Black and brown people killed from gun violence around the city as a result of a multitude of causes.
Brooklyn Borough Eric Adams joined with members of the clergy, Black Lives Matter and Harlem Mothers Stop Another Violent End, some of whom brought photos of their children murdered in gun violence. Adams was particularly outraged at the shooting and murder spree since the beginning of June – a grey casket symbolizing the 74 people shot since last week and the 15 killed since the beginning of June – all minorities.
A myriad of reasons is blamed for the rise in shootings and violent crime, starting with COVID-19 keeping people indoors and causing loss of jobs, schools and other activities for young people. The police have gone further and blame the criminal justice reforms for allowing people arrested to get out of jail, the Rikers Island compassionate release program and all agree that the closure of the courts has allowed many criminals to walk.
Adams expressed outrage over gang violence and continuing shootings in minority communities. He said it will take community-based efforts, including outreach by established organizations and elected officials to reach out to gangs and those around them. But it also takes parents “to be responsible for their children and to know what they are doing.”
On the police, he said the department can do the job if they use their funds wisely and restore the plain-clothed unit to go after guns in a “responsible manner.”
“You need officers with good communication skills, and having good oversight by supervisors and it should be precinct-based and precinct-level so that the commanders are responsible for those officers that are assigned,” said Adams, who has said surprise is essential to catching people with guns. “I think you need all forms of policing and plain-clothed is one of the forms, but it has to be not abused, it must be used in the correct manner with the right officers assigned with the right supervision.”
Anthony Beckford, president of the Brooklyn Black Lives Matter chapter and now a city council candidate, vowed to continue his outreach to gangs despite the difficulty of talking with them because of their mistrust of leaders and police.
“The shootings are based on survival and the lack of resources int he community,” Beckford said. “If we do not provide them with a means to get past that, then they will continue this cycle. If we are in an impoverished community, how are they even getting guns? Who’s bringing this in? What elected officials must do is focus on shutting down the iron pipeline coming from the midwest and south. There needs to be a working relationship between local, state, and federal to bring this under control. We shouldn’t only go after the kids, but the ones supplying the guns – they don’t live in our communities.”
He said it has been difficult to approach some of these gang members, responsible for many of the shootings.
“There is a level of distrust that is why we need resources to make them not feel so isolated and withdrawn,” Beckford said. “We have elected officials saying we put $122 million, but that’s only for 30,000 people when there are 75,000 slots, so they are selling the community short. The deals being made inside city hall and Albany fall short. At the end of the day, who are the ones that suffer? Even though we have elected officials who look like us, that means nothing because sometimes they are the first ones to sell us out so they can get a cushy job or continue with their terms. We will have to hold them accountable too.”
Murders have risen by 23 percent over the same period last year, while shootings have gone up by 46 percent over the same period last year. Borough President Adams, the mothers of those lost to gun violence, and the advocates called for a community-led response to the gun violence crisis in tandem with a sustained commitment by the NYPD to fair, equitable policing.
Chaplain Robert Rice, an NYPD clergy liaison from Harlem said he has been ministering over many of those who have fallen victim to gun violence.
“I’ve been doing gun violence 30 years in Harlem community and I’m the one who walks out with doctors that talk with the grieving family in Harlem,” he said. “In Brooklyn, you have the God Squad. I deal with all the shootings, and there have been a lot of shootings – I’ve never seen so much shootings since the 80s.”
Rice said solutions are to “get outside the four walls and police our community. Eric Adams shared important things – a lot of young men don’t know where to turn. Ages 14-21, a lot of youth out there and their time is being wasted. Pools are closed, so many things closed and so now they are finding themselves in all sorts of trouble. So now there are guns on the street – so much senseless shootings. My job is to bridge gap between police and community, but also bring peace to this senseless shooting and I’ve been trying to do that.”