A shot was fired on Dean Street between Bedford and Nostrand Avenues in Crown Heights last night around 9pm, striking a victim in the chest. According to officers at the precinct reached by phone today, the victim survived and was taken to Kings County Hospital. The motive was unclear and an investigation is pending.
“There’s too many guns on these streets,” a middle aged man said as he approached the yellow police tape, examining the scene.
Officers from the 77th precinct shut down the street, rerouting the B65 bus around the scene. A red hat was found and it was unclear whether it belonged to the victim or the perpetrator, though officers said they were seeking a black male dressed in all black that fled from the scene and evaded a cop, who said “we aren’t the fastest” in reference to the heavy equipment officers carry on their belt. Another officer said he had been driving down the block just before the shot was fired and that it was the first shooting he had witnessed up close in his seven years on the job.
Other officers seemed to let the shooting roll off their shoulder a bit easier, saying they didn’t know what the incident was related to, and that the demarcation line of violent crime between Prospect Heights and Crown Heights seems to be Franklin Avenue.
The incident brought up a few issues related to policing the community. First, that officers are aware of the sense of the mistrust they breed among community residents, who in recent weeks have seen a plethora of rookie cops ticketing citizens for menial offenses, and especially when it comes to speaking up about the crimes they’ve witnessed. Often it is the case, I was told, that perpetrators are picked up and released for lack of witnesses, which is also often the case for those carrying illegal handguns that spark the violence that becomes more intense during the summer months.
Second, the motives in these shootings are varied, though often associated with the violence surrounding the local drug trade or gang related incidents, but recent shootings in the area have left many dead, including two men attending a block party who were shot, one officer told me on a separate occasion, over issues of disrespect. The availability of handguns on New York City streets has replaced fists with steel, and the bodies that lie in their wake can be found on an interactive map of the city’s homicides put together by the New York Times. Many victims in the 11216 zip code, covering parts of Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights list perpetrators as “not reported,” including Chad Wilkins, an 18 year old male who was killed in April down the street from this latest incident. According to the map, the city has seen 292 homicide victims so far for 2009; the average is 540 per year since 2003.
Lastly, it’s not news that the officers who police New York’s communities generally do not live within its borders, which may help their personal sanity, but is a detriment to community policing that breeds an Us versus Them mentality on both sides. I had mentioned to one officer that I was returning from a debate between the candidates for my city council district, who discussed crime at length, only to find a crime scene upon returning to my neighborhood. He told me he would vote for whomever had the toughest stance on crime, to which I asked, “Do you vote in this district?”
“No,” he scoffed.