The District Attorney finally took a meeting with the Q after weeks of tries, since I'd heard that it could be very helpful to draw in the law side of the Law & Order equation, especially when trying to get a grip on violent crime in your neighborhood. I mean Jerry Orbach was a saint, and he gave the gift of sight to two New Yorkers, but you needed Sam Waterston's Jack McCoy to keep those rascals behind bars, and he played a mean Abe Lincoln in his younger days as well. As I recall, he recited a whole Lincoln speech at Cooper Union a few years back too. And remember when Fred Thompson ran for president, not long after stepping down as district attorney? Wait. That's mixing truth with fiction isn't it. Let me start that again.
|Archuke Franz Ferdinand, too,|
had a handlebar moustache
We were led to a super-large conference room. Much too big it would have seemed for a group of 8 of us and the D.A. and a couple of assistants, right? Wrong. One by one, the "suits" started showing up. Heads of divisions like "Gangs" and "Narcotics" and "Murder" and things called "Green Zone" started introducing themselves, and pretty soon there must have been a dozen or so middle-aged men with nice ties and war-worn smiles (they're seasoned prosecutors and such after all) and then the D.A. walked in sat down made a few dry jokes and we were off and running. He wanted to hear what each of us had to say about our experiences in the neighborhood with drug-corners and gang activity and guns and the recent murders and since D.A. Hynes had grown up in the neighborhood and lived in Brooklyn and Queens his whole life he knew the area and specific corners and asked good questions and then what he said next surprised us, though me not so much, because a friend of mine who live in Crown Heights North had prepared me.
He said if we wanted to turn around the area and worked with his office and with the the 71st and 70th precincts and the various patrols and met every two months or so that we would see a huge improvement and that he had "never failed." Period. And that's what my friend said too about Crown Heights North; that they had seen a big improvement in the amount of street crime. And Jack Lewis of the 71st was sitting next to me and he smiled and he said Tim, you should take that deal.
Now I have no idea what that was all about, and debriefing with Dynishal and Quest and Duane and the others I don't know what to make of it but here's what I do know and I'm sharing with you because it involves all of us. We were asked to convene as many folks in the community to get together and his office will send down folks to find out where the problem spots are and what are the problem buildings and apartments and corners and at-risk kids and worst landlords and businesses and they'll start running real intelligence operations and get to know the area much better than they already do and get as many users into treatment as possible, let young people know about the programs available as alternatives to street life, provide job opportunities to those who want them, run gang interference etc etc etc.
I'll be honest. I have no history with stuff like this, and I'm frankly a little tired of trying to organize stuff. I have yet to find anyone who really wants to take a leadership role around here and find out what the young people are lacking and needing, why the gangs persist, why the adults are M.I.A., why everyone is so fearful. I mean I see drug deals happen and everybody just looks the other way. No wonder nothing ever changes. If I were a drug dealer around here I'd think this is a GREAT PLACE TO DO BUSINESS. Nobody seems to give a shit. People just walk right by, never call 911, never organize, never do anything. Over the last three years little meetings crop up and people say this has got to stop, or there needs to be more this, or someone should really do this, or the kids need to that, but nothing ever happens. The cops say the 911 calls are just not happening. Then crime spikes, I mean really spikes like recently, and the 911 calls still aren't there. A bunch of newcomers move to the neighborhood, iPhone thefts go through the roof, still no real effort to curb the gangs and drug activity. I get the part about not wanting to go up to a known drug dealer and say "hey, stop dealing drugs on the street in front of my kid you moron." But generally speaking, aren't we all a lot less safe when guys who make their living selling crack cocaine and have access to guns think it's okay to ply their trade with impunity? Right in front of our homes and on our walks to the train? I'm not calling anybody out, I'm just noting that it's been frustrating to take part in one little group after another and still be no farther along than three years ago.
Lewis did say that the Impact Zone is coming to the area, so even with heightened police activity now, it's probably gonna ramp up even higher. This could be good, but it's not necessarily what the the D.A. has in mind. If any of you have lived in an Impact Zone it's a lot a lot a lot of blue. The boundaries he's drawing are, if I recall, Park to Nostrand, Lincoln down to Clarkson. Some have already expressed privately to me that it might make some young people nervous in the way that things got tense in East Flatbush. Let's hope not. Perhaps our block associations can foster dialogue to get the kids talking about and to the cops?
By the way, Delroy Wright of the Flatbush Merchant's Association was also at the D.A.'s office, and he noted as I have that Ray's bodega is clean. That is, besides cleaning the glass of his bodega at the corner of Flatbush and Maple, he also heard us loud and clear and stopped letting all the hoodlums hang out there and in front. If you've a mind to, stop in and thank him for cleaning up his act. He was never actively dealing drugs out of there himself, he just didn't feel he had anyone backing him up to get the bad dudes to move along. Jack Lewis agreed - Ray has been cooperative. If you need a candy bar, buy it from Ray. I think it's helpful to show him you appreciate that he's helping to keep the area free from thuggery.
On the other hand, "Pancakes From Hell" as I like to call the Woodruff Deli at Woodruff and Flatbush was recently host to a LOT of crack dealing. After I sent a note to the 70th Precinct based on a tip, they asked me to come down last week to look at a video they got from the deli's owner. In it, a heavy-set lady could be seen leaning over the ice-cream freezer talking on a cell-phone. The freezer, if you know the deli, faces Flatbush. A man come in and opens the freezer drawer next to her. She reaches into her mouth and pulls something out and places it on the closed drawer in front of her. He reaches down and puts his hand on top of hers, taking whatever is under hers, and places his hand in his mouth, while she takes what he's given her and puts it in her pocket. Thus the transaction is made. He walks out. She walks out a few moments later. It's quite graceful actually.
The cops tell me the runners never have more than one baggie on them, that's why they're moving constantly. The dealers on my block are moving ALL day long. When they're not dealing, they barely move; that's how I know they're working or not. They hold the stuff in their mouth, sometimes in the butt cheeks. They don't worry about the weed of course. That's not really even a crime anymore. If they get caught, they'll swallow the narcotics. Even if they get caught with some on them, they'll plead guilty and usually spend little or no time. The dealers are tough to lock up for long too. The best way to get someone for a long time? They shoot or kill somebody. Or get caught with illegal weapons and a big stash. Those are rare busts. On my street they got a guy for heroin, crack and guns on a warrant. We'd been talking about him for awhile. I posted about a guy they got on Washington Ave recently. These are the successes. When I talk to the guys at the precincts there are lists of guys who could be next. It's really sad. On my block, there are six guys that I now know by name with long rap sheets. None of them are over 25. Most of them say hello. Is Clarkson special? Not at all.
So, what's to be done?
The answer I get back time and time again is NOT a) turn the other way, b) don't look, c) pretend they're not there, d) wait til gentrification happens, e) wait for winter, f) hope the cops do their job etc. It's always "let us know what's going on," "find out who these folks are," "get to know the good kids from the bad kids" "reach out" "communicate" "form block associations "get involved" "find out what the kids are saying" "say hello to neighbors" that kinda groovy stuff. And whenever a crime or funny stuff goes down, call 911. And call 911, not 311. 311 for garbage and noise. But 911 when it's something you want the cops to know about. You can blame the Q for telling you that, because the cops told me that. They need the numbers in order to justify taking action, and 911 gives them the numbers.
Dynishal is organizing a meeting with the D.A.'s folks for the northern part of what she calls PLG on Lincoln Road. For the southern part of "Lefferts," say Woodruff, Parkside, Clarkson, Winthrop, Ocean Ave (south of, um, the townhouses?), Hawthorne, Lenox Ave...etc. or anywhere that feels like the Q train is your hometrain say, feel free to send me an email to help be part of this effort. I'd like to create an email list of people that will be kinda "block captains" for this whole D.A. thing. I really don't think it will take a lot of time, but we do need to try to take advantage of this opportunity. And who knows, maybe the D.A. will lose the election, so maybe the whole thing will be short lived. But we'll create a sort of infrastructure anyway!
The Clarkson Ave Block Association will be hosting the first informational meeting about the effort to rid the area of guns, gangs and drugs on:
June 12, 2013
40 Clarkson Ave
Basement Community Room
You're all invited to join us and hear what the D.A.'s office is offering in the way of ideas and support. Remember, they claim to have "never failed."