By Leon Moore
Between Burke Avenue and 219th street Bronx, New York, there has been an annual rise in violent crime during the summer. During the summer of 2012 this epidemic met its peak with five shootings in one week.
Crime occurs throughout the entire year however during the summer violent crime always tends to escalate. According to the Daily News writer Patrice O’Shaughnessy, “long hot summer, that’s the catch phrase. When the weather gets warm there are more people hanging out and violence erupts.”
Patrice O’Shaughnessy, author for the Daily News, gave some telling statistics during one of her newspaper columns. O’Shaughnessy wrote, “the murder rate has soared nearly 22% in the Bronx this year according to NYPD statistics.”There was an increase in homicides during the summer of 2010 as opposed to the summer of 2009. In 2009 there were 69 homicides and in 2010 there were 84 according to NYPD statistics. In 2012 that number increased to 97.
The continuous increase in violent crime has had an increasing negative impact on the entire community. Businesses are losing income because of earlier closing times and residents are not confident in their ability to be outside at certain times and because of this law enforcement agencies are under heavy scrutiny.
According to Ahmed Shabazz, “the five shootings between July 17th and July 24th forced me to close my bodega at 11pm as opposed to 12pm for safety concerns.” Many other bodegas have suffered similar conditions which has resulted in financial repercussions. According to Shabazz, “closing the store earlier resulted in me losing close to one thousand dollars in profit, in July, August and September.” Shabazz had a deep tone in his voice and the disgust on his face was clearly visible.
Residents say they are disgusted with the police and other law enforcement agencies. They have lost confidence in their police force and as a result of this, these residents will stay inside after dark during the summer.
According to Eric Williams “I have been living here my entire life and from my perspective the job the police are doing is terrible.” Williams suggested that police officers do not accomplish the task of keeping residents protected at all.
Gerry Fortuné had a similar but slightly different take on the job police officers are doing. “I think they are addressing the symptoms of crime without dealing with the cause.” Gerry expressed the desire for more police patrolling.
One of the biggest effects violent crime has, is its ability to dissuade individuals from participating within the community to their preferable extent.
Fortuné and Williams both expressed concern for their safety. These concerns have compromised how willing both residents are to participate in social activities, particularly at night time. According to Fortuné “generally speaking I feel safe, but at night time I avoid going out.” Williams stated that he always watches his back anytime he is outside.
Tracy Gordon sobbed as she told the story of having police officers, news reporters and coroners in front of her home. “I remember my dad taking me to see the dead body, a young man, my neighbor laying in front my house dead life less, I have never been so up close and personal to a victim of homicide it was surreal.” The traumatic experience continues to have an impact on Gordon’s daily life. “I work late at nights and coming home I have to watch where I walk.”
Derrick Kirk’s step father was one of the homicide victims during the summer of 2012. Derrick had tears dripping down his face as he recalled the phone call that changed it all. “I remember my mom who is a correctional officer calling to inform my siblings and I that our dad had been gunned down.” Kirk stated that his brother Andrew nearly fainted when receiving the news. The effect of that homicide is still being felt by Kirk until this day. Kirk had to drop out of college and pick up a job to help support his family.
All five of the residents have had personal experience and encounters with violent crime. Fortuné reported having his bike stolen from in front of his apartment building, Williams spoke about having family members who were assaulted during the summer of 2011 and the summer of 2012.
Residents do not believe that authorities will find a way to curtail the increase on violent crime. This disbelief stems from many different perspectives. Gordon implied lack of action “I don’t think the police are proactive in regards to dealing with kids hanging on the street.” Fortuné believes that the problem with police is their failure to launch community outreach programs.
There was a lot of advice from the five residents. Williams cited the lack of productive things for youth to do during the summertime, he also pointed out the lack of financial resources for residents, “I believe the economy affects how people behave especially with the recent drug war.” Shabazz suggested more frequent patrolling as a way to deter individuals from committing deviant behaviors. Gordon and Fortuné both suggested a community based outreach program as the only way to handle the issue. Gordon stated “ I remember having my home robbed in broad day light and no one would come forward with information, but yet everyone is so concerned with crime, the only way to eradicate this issue is for us to rise up as a community and fight back.” Fortuné suggested that the community reach out to its leaders and help out “residents need to contact Councilman Andy King and look towards him for answers but also give him suggestions, we all live here.”
Violent crime is something that can have a variety of negative impacts on a community. These impacts can span from lost loved ones to lost wages. It is important for law enforcement and residents to get this epidemic under control; otherwise this community can become a war zone.