Community outreach and communication highlighted a pledge from officials and an announcement of a nine-point plan to put a ceasefire to gun violence in southeast Queens.
The plan, revealed by District Attorney Richard A. Brown and a number of elected officials on Friday, August 17, came on the eve of a buy back program in Jamaica to curb violence in the region.
“The combination of easy access to guns, violence fueled by disputes between rival gangs and competing criminal enterprises vying for turf, decreases in police resources in high crime neighborhoods and community reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes has contributed to a sudden, deadly increase in gun violence in recent weeks – especially in southeast Queens,” Brown said.
The points look to: send the message that possession of and carrying guns and insinuating violence is unacceptable in the area; inform residents that guns can be turned in at any precinct for $100 cash at any time; a campaign to encourage people to report illegal weapons, and strengthen “If You See Something, Say Something”; back legislation to limit criminals and the mentally ill access to assault weapons and handguns; enforce existing gun laws; better dialogue between police and residents; up police resources in areas where violence has increased; make efforts to shutter illegal businesses and limit night hours of establishments where crime is prominent; and give more information to residents about existing programs.
“We’re not going to be idling and sitting back while people are dying,” said Congressmember Gregory Meeks.
Homicides were up this year nearly 29 percent in Queens South from 2011, according to data provided by the DA’s office; shooting incidents in the area were up more than 22 percent, with 121 this year.
After school and violence prevention programs for young people are also crucial to this plan, several officials said.
Assemblymember Vivian Cook said funding for programs needed to be restored to schools to help deter students from being out on the street or getting involved in gangs.
“Let’s also talk about programs and things for these young people to help them stay off the street,” Cook said. “The programs have been cut in the schools. I think it’s important that these programs come back into the schools so that these children can be involved in some of those things.”
The push for “If You See Something, Say Something,” is to encourage residents to report any violence or suspicious activity — anonymously.
Meeks, formerly an assistant DA, said the reluctance, or fear, by residents to report incidents or provide witnesses hindered cleaning up crime in the area.
“I know firsthand as a former DA that without a witness you don’t have a case,” Meeks said. “The police can do all the work that they want but if you don’t have someone to step up, then you don’t have a case.”