Less bullets, more books

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 5:27 p.m.

Two killings a week in the 75th Precinct would not be an unusual phenomenon in past days, said the father and homegrown hero, who "lives and works" in this area. "According to CompStat, this is where over 60 percent of the shootings and killings occur."

The reasons for the high crime rate include "poverty--and because this where there is most need," said Mitchell, adding, "A criminal element probably does exist here too with drug dealing and gangs, but there is a great deal of unemployment."

In an effort to tackle inner-city violence, a couple of years ago, state elected officials John Sampson, Eric Adams and Malcolm Smith met with concerned activists and community residents and leaders and came up with Operation SNUG--the word "guns" spelled backwards.

This initiative was to consist of:

S treet intervention and stopping the violence with violence interrupters and law enforcement

N ational state local funding support, funding for all alternatives and legislation to help implement solutions

U se of celebrities and community centers,

G angs, guns, gainful employment; real-world gang awareness and prevention initiatives with connections to employment and economic alternatives

This is statewide initiative, Mitchell explained, where eight counties and 10 cities received funding to "hopefully reduce the violence in their respective counties. We were able to hire credible messengers--people from the community who have been selected by a hiring panel to work in the target areas as outreach workers and violence interrupters. Each county got $500,000 and our organization was chosen to represent Kings County, Brooklyn.

"With a little bit of money to tackle a huge problem, we have been able to flood the target area with education material and host community activities, and work during the same nighttime hours when most violent crimes are being committed. It has been proven that you can be effective by putting people from target areas to work in that target area, with the goal in mind to reach those most likely to commit these violent crimes--to reach them and help them, and to be able to counsel them and assist them with access to certain resources and help them with their personal issues."

Seeing 10 local residents patrolling the street every night and engaging young people is something East New Yorkers are about to get used to, said Mitchell. "We really do a lot of community patrolling or canvassing where we get more familiar with the individuals and different groups who live in the target area, who are high risk. We pattern our work schedule around when they are out, so we do 4 p.m. 'til midnight or 6 p.m. 'til 2 p.m, like work shifts.

"We have identifiable uniforms on during the nighttime hours and patrol the same dangerous, rough streets as the NYPD, but our intent and perspectives are different. Our goal is to reach them before they commit another violent act on the general public. Our goal is to help that population. We have a strong presence on the street combined with our educational campaign and work with other leaders--elected officials, religious leaders, business owners--and with law enforcement to understand our way of addressing crime in the community."