Community crusade

CYRIL JOSH BARKER and NAYABA ARINDE | 4/12/2011, 5:27 p.m.
Community crusade

"Let's cut to the chase here. We have an outbreak of criminal activity, especially around the four block square area southeast of 125th and Lenox," determined Chet Whye Jr., director of the HARLEM4 Center for CHANGE.

In a request to the Police Department, Whye added, "In order to prevent this situation from spiraling out into something totally out of control, we need a rigid model of cooperation and communication between the residents of the area and the department.

"My concern is that the relationship between the general community and NYPD is being compromised by the perception of the policing paradigm in the area, which was exacerbated by the tragedy on Tuesday morning that took away our beloved Sister Mary and left others injured and many more shaken.

"This warrants a real meeting with community leadership to lay out concerns and forge a global strategy to deal with this situation and get us through the summer."

Maintaining their call to parents to help end violence, Harlem community leaders took their message to where many believe the violence originates.

An anti-violence rally at the Lincoln Houses projects on Friday urged parents to become more involved with their children, along with calling on residents to take back their neighborhood. The evening rally, led by community organization Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E., was held in what leaders call a hotbed for shootings and fights. Recent violence in Harlem has stemmed from Lincoln Houses, which has a heavy gang and drug problem, according to residents.

Much of the violence from the housing development occurs during confrontations between rival gangs from nearby neighborhoods. In a recent incident, residents reported a shootout between teenagers and NYPD officers.

While Lincoln Houses sits directly across the street from pristine Lenox Terrace on Fifth Avenue and 133rd Street, violence still reigns. Lifelong resident of the development Tim Spears said that over the years that he's lived in the Lincoln Houses, things have gotten worse.

He said, "It's the young kids that are doing it. I heard shooting when I was waiting by the bus stop. It's getting crazy to the point that they don't have any respect for anything or anybody. It's going to get so bad to the point where you can't even go outside. They should send them to Iraq. If they want to shoot and kill, give them a job doing it. It'll change their whole life."

Jackie Rowe-Adams, co-founder of Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E., served as leader of the rally and had a simple message to the youth in the form of a chant: "Put the guns down and put the peace sign up." Rowe-Adams even went a step further by not hesitating to tell young men passing by the rally to pull up their sagging pants.

"There's a lot of violence over here at Lincoln Houses," she said. "We are sick and tired of it. If we could just get a message across to the parents and give them some solutions. The parents aren't even out here and this is where the shooting and killings are, right over here in Lincoln. Parents should be out here because they should care about why their children are doing this."