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.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

This Monday Night - Safety Meeting at the Clubhouse

Cameras...and the C.O.P. program (Civilian Observation Patrol). Those items are on the agenda Monday night at 6:30 at Eric Adams' office. For those serious about increasing safety and creating better relations w/cops and between neighbors, this meeting is more specific, and to my mind more useful, than many in the past couple months, since now we're at the point where we're talking about actually useful tactics. Cameras, civilian involvement and police presence are highly cited by locals seeking action. Lighting, another frequently mentioned strategy, is not on this particular agenda, but studies show smartly done lighting schemes can play a huge role in sending career criminals towards other, presumably poorly lit, parts of the borough, or maybe even as far as Staten Island or Ronkonkoma. The abstract blue circle designed poster below:

Q-nalysis: In my conversations with various neighbors, a single theme emerges - many people's sense of safety is deeply personal and psychological...actually, I'd say most people's. I mean, unless you've actually been robbed at gunpoint, or worse, or been, say, caught in the middle of a shootout, your fear of crime probably is aroused by a "sense" of menace on the street, which can be either real or imagined. Certainly a group of late-teens early-twenties rkids hanging-out can look menacing, but whether or not you're actually party to a risky scene is quite a different story. Unless you know the kids or their activities truthfully and/or personally, or they've threatened you verbally, you may just be viewing a scene that's unfamiliar, not unsafe. That said, it's the guys hanging-out that seems to vex people the most. Lighting, cameras, beat cops -- all of these seem designed specifically to keep people from hanging out in menacing groups, right? I say this because there are, after all, laws on the books to punish actual criminal activity (hey, if you see someone selling drugs, phone it in. someone getting beat up, phone it in. someone tagging a it in!) On some level, the whole loitering around public spaces and in front of buildings is merely an annoyance, until something ACTUALLY goes down. And...that's why I personally got concerned when shootings, felony assaults, and rapes started to rise year-over-year. That's not fear; that's statistics. There was an actual something to be concerned about, rather than a lot of uncomfortable people complaining about uncomfortable street grooves. The fact is, hard as it is to admit, these two factors - loitering and violence - might be 100% totally unrelated. However, I did get pretty concerned when two separate longtime black residents told me they didn't recognize any of the serious hanger-outers in front of some commonly-cited bodegas. They were "outsiders," which worried them, because there was no intel about them. I wonder if that's how the cops feel too? And the cops were telling me they've identified a rise in gang-related activity, whatever the hell that means. That too gave me pause, so I started looking under the hood a bit, and yes I do believe there's a lot more that concerned, capable citizens should do to help their environment be safer, cleaner and more amenable to all. And by all, I really sincerely mean all. Except Joe Handgun Crackman, who we really want to feel incredibly uncomfortable every time he sees us coming.

Anyhow, the summer's general freakout led to a series of reasonably smart, considered responses from quite a few of your neighbors - notably PLGNA, Senator Adams, Nostrand Ave Merchant's Association, block associations etc. A lot of people have been through all of this before of course -- during much worse periods in the borough's history. At first, I felt like only recent entries into the PLG sweepstakes were up in arms. Come to find out, the "sense that we've lost the upper hand" is quite pervasive, and runs deep in many sectors and demographics. By no means could anyone draw the conclusion that crime is "Camden, NJ bad" around here, of course. I mean, you're safer living in our borough, even precinct, than in just about any urban setting in the country - yes, even along Flatbush Avenue.

But how do you "feel?" That's the subtext involved in any discussion of civilian-led efforts to get the thuggy looking loiterers to move along, which is really what a lot of this boils down to. Because we're not undercover narcotics officers, and we don't have the know-how or fire-power to take on ACTUAL bad guys. So when it comes to the meetings like tomorrow's, its about actions sure, but it's also about you showing up and being counted and heard and being public and getting to know people. Because, by taking control of the way we interact with the police, each other and even the thugs, we empower ourselves. That's the theory anyway. Oh, and I forgot to mention this most important part - when you show concern, the cops take notice. They've told me so, and there's been an actual increase in the number of patrols in our sector (sector C), and busts, as a direct result. That's a fact that can only be attributed to people showing up at meetings like this, and expressing their concerns.

I've also noted that not enough people resort to the obvious - calling 311 or 911 - when things go down. People are more likely to inquire online about a shooting than call it in - the 71st is needlessly hampered by a reluctance on the part of locals to talk. If you want advice on when to call which three-digit number, I say this: if you're annoyed, call 311. If you're afraid, call 911. Nice simple rule, eh? See you Monday...

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