About 35 people turned out last night for a Crime Forum meeting at "the Clubhouse," as I like to call Senator Adams' office on Flatbush. He really does put himself out there...I'm impressed by the cut of his jib, and he held court admirably. The Police Captain (not Inspector Simonetti...who was that guy? a little help? handsome, with a deep Morgan Freeman lilt and a bit of Caribbean accent?) was impressively well-informed about the minutiae of the 'hood, and despite some testy questions from the gatherers, it was largely an informative and fruitful meeting.
That's the good news. The simple truth is there's not much being done to address longstanding issues folks have with the "hot spots" in the neighborhood. The answers - not enough manpower, no money for cameras, can't do nothing about low-level dealing, insufficient 911 and 311 calls to warrant more resources, not enough people talking to the cops - we've definitely been here before. Every one of us living in North Flatbush, has stories to tell of drug deals, violence and shifty characters at suspicious locations. So is this best we can expect, living in the Big City? Of course not. There's much to be done, without inflaming tensions or appearing shrill and entitled. In fact, I think we're all entitled to a safe, clean "main street," and I doubt the law-abiding among us would disagree.
And I'm also convinced that the core of the problem (not the one about poverty and lack of opportunity for young black men - I couldn't begin to address that in a blog post, though I guess I just did) is the indifference of landlords to the Quality of Life in and around their buildings and businesses. Heck, that infamous corner of Maple and Flatbush? An actual person owns the building - Abe Green - and he needs a swift kick in the groin, because he and countless other building owners seem to give a rat's ass about their properties. One would think, though one would be wrong in our case, that rising house prices and incomes would motivate them to spruce up their properties and hold their leasees accountable for the crime and loitering in front of those properties. Such is, and perhaps has been for decades, the great irony of PLG/Flatbush.
Gino from Gino's (what are the chances?) has been here 26 years, and while he's seen VAST improvements through the years, he said if there were more NYPD security cameras in the neighborhood "we wouldn't be sitting here tonight." Cameras seemed to be a favorite topic of many, though the cost (according to the cops in attendance) is exorbitant. Many wondered how this could be so. After all, the cameras aren't there so much to prevent crime, since there isn't the manpower to watch them live; they're intended to scare people off by their mere presence AND to be viewed AFTER a crime has taken place as evidence. Apparently they keep the tapes for 30 days (though in the digital age, I'd think six months or a year would be cool). When I was a younger man, such Big Brother tactics would have gotten my ire up. Now, I just kinda shrug at the thought of cameras watching my every boring move. The quoted $43k price-tag sounds like it needs a fact-checker to me. Perhaps that's a total investment over a few years, because I'm pretty sure that B&H can run circles around that price for the equipment itself.
Besides discussing the PERCEPTION that crime is up in Sector Charlie, we learned that there is, in fact, something called Sector Charlie, and apparently we live in it. The cops gave us a primer on how they allocate resources, and the southwestern part of the 71st is one of five (or 10 according to Adams) sectors. Charlie is military-speak for letter "c" I guess. Anyhoo, here we are in Charlie, a supposedly lower-crime area of the precinct compared to near Kings County or deep in the Heights of Crown (or Wingate anyone? What the hell is Wingate? Do people actually claim to live there? And when are they going to go back to the livelier name Pigtown? Don't tell me that name would drive away buyers and renters - just look at prices over in Hell's Kitchen.)
Other semi-interesting developments at the meeting:
Josh Greenberg of the nascent PLGNA Safety Task Force reported on said TFs activities. If you want to get more involved, just email firstname.lastname@example.org. More can be found at PLGNA.org.
A neighbor-woman, whom I'll call Madame since I didn't catch her name, pointed out that the men in blue are viewed with suspicion by many, including, it would seem, Madame herself, who had a crappy run in with the police after she scuttled a stabbing attempt by scaring off the would-be killer by grabbing her hair, which came off into her hands, leaving Madame in the possession of the hirsute wad and the weapon itself, only to be told by the detectives that there was no need for such evidence, as the victim was not talking or willing to press the proverbial charges. We all sat breathless after the telling of her story, though in my case it might have been the Jamaican Beef Patty I'd scarfed down just before entering the "Clubhouse." By the way, the owner of Golden Crust was there, and I meant to say hello, but missed the chance.
Ben Edwards, president of the Lefferts Manor Association, encouraged us to join a Civilian Patrol. He and others have mentioned to me that after nearly a dozen people "signed up" after the July crime meeting, not a single one has followed-through. I'll admit I'm pretty excited to drive around in a cop-car myself, but I can see that some might not want the attention. But you know what? It's the best dang idea out there I've heard, so if we're serious, we need to put our bodies where our mouths are. Most people won't recognize you through the car's glass, if they even notice the civilian cop car at all,and even if they did, is it so bad to have the rep of being part of the cops? The Orthodox have their Shomrim, and as my Aunt Patty O'Donnell used to say, if it's good enough for the Jews...
Or we could try a hair-brained idea I came up with just now: we could secede from the 71st and join a less-criminal precinct, so that WE'D be the sector with all the attention. Look out 78th! The East gonna rise again!
Last, but certainly not least, came Eric Adams' call to arms, which involved no less than the creation of a Q of L WAR ROOM, complete with pictures of problem areas, a map (hopefully with push-pins) and a rotating cast of committed community members to engage in all-out battle with the forces of trash, drugs, gangs, graffiti, and poor spelling. I'm with the Senator on this one, but it certainly sounded daunting last night.
Maybe we could just buy the thugs a nice Gino's three-course dinner (w/wine) in exchange for their cross-their-heart-hope-to-die promise to behave?
The Q at Parkside
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.