The phrase “Stop Shooting Start Living” leapt off the back of Rodney Scott’s white T-shirt as he moved toward the crowd gathered at the evening rally on the corner of Kingston and St. Marks Avenues.
Community leaders, clergymen, area residents and members of Save Our Streets held a rally on a recent Thursday to protest against gun violence and the recent series of shootings in their neighborhood.
Scott, 47, a Save Our Streets volunteer and Crown Heights resident said, “I feel like it’s the late 70s, early 80s with all the shooting that’s been going on lately.”
“Coming together is how we reach the community. We have to meet on the block,” he said.
One man was shot in his torso and was pronounced dead at Kings County Hospital and a second was injured from a gun shot to his right leg on July 25, in a shooting on St. Johns Place near Schenectady Avenue. More gun violence erupted on the corner of Kingston and St. Marks Avenues less than a week later.
Along with the Save Our Streets organization, the Crown Heights community is working together to restore the peace in their Brooklyn neighborhood, during what is considered a citywide summer shooting spree.
The poster taped to the Brooklyn store-front office window of SOS Crown Heights reads, “It’s been 0 days since our last shooting.”
According to the New York City Police Department, 911 shootings occurred in the city this year. This is a 7.3 percent increase over the same period in 2011.
NYPD records show 23 shootings in 2012 within the northern section of Crown Heights patrolled by the 77th Precinct. This is a 21 percent increase from last year in shootings in this community.
Allen James, Save Our Streets’ program manager, organized the rally and said, “We try to respond within 72 hours of any neighborhood shootings to determine if there’s an ongoing conflict.”
“We have an excellent relationship with the 77th Precinct’s office of community-affairs but we don’t work for them,” said James.
“But they contact us when incidents occur,” he said.
Save Our Streets is a project of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center and uses the Chicago Ceasefire model in an approach to prevent gun violence. The Mediation Center is a project of the Center for Court Innovation, a public-private partnership between the Fund for the City of New York and the New York State Unified Court System.
James said Save Our Streets’ long-standing relationship with area youth, who are often gang members, is beneficial to their work to resolve street conflicts.
“They work with various community members including clergy but don’t want people to associate them with police,” said an officer of the 77th Precinct’s community-affairs office.
Pastor Ken Bogan of Greater Restoration Baptist Church in Crown Heights said the police, city government and churches can’t combat the shootings without the help of local residents. Bogan stood at the rally in front of the crowd with a bullhorn and asked area residents who could hear him from their apartment windows to come down and join the rally.
“Let’s stand with our neighbors and say the violence has to stop,” said Bogan. “Even if you’re an atheist, you have to care about humanity and each other.”
Bogan works closely with Save Our Streets and is a board member of Project CARE, an organization consisting of black and Jewish leaders in Crown Heights who work to solve problems in the local area.
Kingston Avenue borders the neighborhood’s Brower Park and is a main commercial thoroughfare with small businesses, churches and schools.
Desmond Atkins, community board 8 member and Kingston Avenue and Bergen Street block-president said, “This is not a hood. This is a neighborhood.”
Desmond believes if more people in the community were involved in local tenant and homeowner organizations, the shootings and violence would lessen.
Desmond grew up in Central Brooklyn and has resided in Crown Heights since the 1950s. Desmond said he doesn’t intend to leave the borough and wants residents to understand the area is a place people should move to, not move from.
“You don’t have to move someplace else to be somewhere good,” he said.