The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Letter to the Commish

Many people have asked the Q whatever became of the effort to address rising violent crime (felony assaults, rape) in the 71st. Things seemed to reach a boiling point, as they often do, mid-to-late summer of last year. Meetings were held, task forces created, thoughts were shared, fears were laid bare. Elected officials held forums (fora, I know, but just try using the latin plural without sounding like a total twerp). As the mercury dropped, as happens every year, the "action" moved indoors and pretty soon you could be forgiven if you thought you'd imagined the whole thing.

As a matter of fact, various individuals and groups were busily preparing the following community-wide response to Commissioner Kelly, via a concerned adviser of his, Detective Martin Brown. There were various small intrigues on the way to this letter's delivery, but in the end it pretty well sums up many people's thoughts and hopes regarding police involvement in drug and gang activity not just on Flatbush but throughout the precinct.

The Q is happy to refrain from specific commentary and I'll let the contents of the letter speak for themselves. To my mind, even more than the ideas expressed therein, the potentially lasting story here is the way diverse groups worked together to craft a response that addressed common ground. My fear after the first couple meetings of the PLGNA Safety Task Force was that a small minority of voices would dominate the proceedings. In fact, similar thinking emerged from people that, on the surface, might seem to have little in common. At the very least, people are talking to each other. Feel free to comment on the contents...I think it's worth a read by every single resident and merchant in our district.

January 2012

Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly
New York City Police Department
One Police Plaza
New York, NY 10038

Dear Commissioner Kelly:

The organizations that have signed this letter and the residents who have supported it represent 1,300 households in the Prospect-Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, an area served by the 71st Precinct with which you are familiar, having served as its Captain. We are writing to call your attention to some incidents that occurred last year and to appeal for your help. From the beginning of 2011, there was a notable increase in violent crime in our community. For example, early in the summer, the token booth at the Prospect Park subway station on Lincoln Road was doused in a flammable liquid and set on fire in an attempt to rob the MTA employee stationed there. As the summer progressed week after week our neighborhood was faced with a rash of shootings within the area bordered by Nostrand Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, Lincoln Road and Clarkson Avenue. One shooting in late October on Nostrand Avenue and Rutland Road was caught on surveillance video and broadcast through most local media. As the year progressed the sound of gunfire became a frequent occurrence in our neighborhood. We are reaching out to you to assist us in dealing with this problem with hopes that this trend doesn’t continue or get worse as spring approaches.

The relationship between the staff of the 71st Precinct and our community is excellent. Members of the precinct routinely attend community meetings and events. They are responsive when a crime occurs and accessible at other times. From a community-relations perspective, we commend the precinct. At the same time, we are concerned that the precinct’s efforts may require more resources allocated to preventing and investigating crime, particularly gun-related violence, and apprehending violent criminals. We request that your office review the precinct’s crime prevention, investigation and apprehension strategies and determine if new or different resources are required to address the safety of our neighborhood. Specifically, we ask that you focus on activity that our elected officials inform us is the result of gang activity in the community. In addition, the spike in violent crime we have noted seems related to the absence of beat cops, especially on Flatbush Avenue and Nostrand Avenue between Lincoln Road and Clarkson Avenue. Within this area, there are several problematic spots, notably the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Maple Street, and Nostrand Avenue and Fenimore Street where brazen illegal activity occurs day and night.

As of October the 71st Precinct’s crime statistics indicate a year-over-year reduction in overall crime of 3%, an achievement for which we congratulate the unit’s hard-working men and women. However, a closer reading of the data shows that this achievement masks a more chilling conclusion: while overall crime is down, violent crime has spiked dramatically. Comparing year-to-date statistics from 2011 to 2010, murders in the precinct have increased by 16%, rapes by 55%, and felonious assaults by 30% (NYPD CompStat: reporting 10/10 through 10/16/2011). We are sure you agree with us that this rise in violent crime is unacceptable.We acknowledge that we are one small community in a larger scope that includes neighborhoods more victimized by violent crime than ours. However, a bullet is a bullet wherever it lands. Our neighborhood has made enormous progress in reducing crime and improving the quality of life for all its residents in recent years. Please do not allow it to deteriorate because of violent crime. As mentioned here is an outline of our requests:

1. Conduct a review, from your office, of the crime prevention, investigation and apprehension strategies of the 71st Precinct to determine if improvements can be made.
2. Determine if the number of personnel budgeted for this precinct is sufficient to stem this spike in violent crime. Is it possible to increase the police presence in core zones that have seen the greatest increase in violence? Is it possible to target locations that are known problems, like the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Fenimore Street and Flatbush Avenue and Maple Street?
3. Consider this community for the high-impact policing strategies that you have pioneered.
4. Assign a special task force to address the gang problem. Implement the evidence-based anti-gang strategies that have proved effective in other communities.

We thank you in advance for your attention to our concerns and look forward to receiving a plan from you describing how the NYPD will address this disturbing problem in our community.

Nostrand Avenue Merchants Association
300 Midwood Block Association
300 Rutland Block Association
Flatbush Empire Parkside Merchants Association 
Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association (PLGNA)
St Gabriel’s Episcopal Church
Supportive Residents

cc: Inspector Peter Simonetti (71st Precinct)
cc: Detective Martin Brown


babs said...

I hadn't noticed that the boundaries cited stopped at Lincoln Rd on the north end. So this leaves out Lefferts Ave and Sterling St, both in the PLG Historic District, as well as the site of several shootings - most recently (a few months ago) when a young man was killed near the corner of Rogers Ave and Sterling St. The fried chicken store on the corner of Sterling St and Nostrand Ave, as well as the first apartment building on the north side of Sterling St going west from Nostrand Ave, are known gang/drug locations. Shame on me for not reading this more thoroughly before!

Anonymous said...

Great letter and thanks everyone involved for their efforts. Was the letter sent already or can any of us add our names to it as individuals and/or bring it to our block association? I'm not sure our block (Maple II) got to see this and have that opportunity. I would hope we would have added our block as well, if so.