Brooklyn DA promises to protect Coney Island

Craig D. Frazier | 10/30/2014, 2:52 p.m.

“I am determined to come to Coney Island and protect you,” Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson told a score of Coney Island residents at a town hall meeting at Liberation Diploma Plus High School last week. More than 300 local residents joined the former federal prosecutor and his staff for an evening of social discourse on issues that included a multifaceted approach to rid Brooklyn of gun violence.

“I wanted to come out to Coney Island because I want to make it clear that Coney Island matters to me,” he said. “When I ran for DA last year, I was told that there was one part of Brooklyn that was promoted. The other part was where people felt forgotten.”

Thompson said that he had an obligation to the Coney Island community. “I have come here to tell you that you are not forgotten,” he said. “This night is not about me, it’s about you.”

At this time last year, 120 murders had occurred in Brooklyn. This year, 99 murders have occurred in Brooklyn and 511 people have been shot. In Coney Island, gang violence accounted for 21 of the shootings.

Thompson announced that his office has implemented a new Crime Strategies Unit called “drivers of crime” that targets guns before they hit the streets. He also unveiled the Violent Criminal Enterprise Bureau, a fusion of the Major Narcotics Investigation Bureau, the Gang Bureau and the Forensic Science Unit.

Members of the Coney Island community had the opportunity to ask the borough’s top prosecutor questions. Pam Harris, executive director of Coney Island Generation Gap, a local youth organization, brought a group of teenagers from her program to the summit.

“We lack a community corrections program in our area,” she said. “We would like to see more programs that address those who are reintegrating from the criminal justice system into the hands of grassroots organizations as well as probation.”

Thompson said that new programs for the neighborhood, including Comm Alert, a re-entry program, the Cure Violence program and the Back on Track program for children who have fallen behind in school, would address issues of that nature.

“We are determined to give you the best DA’s office in the country,” said Thompson. The Brooklyn DA’s office is the third largest in the country, behind Los Angeles and Chicago, with more than 500 prosecutors in downtown Brooklyn. Thompson said that they handle more than 100,000 cases a year and serve 2.5 million people.

In addition, he promised justice for all, highlighting his pledge to address wrongful convictions. He talked about vacating the conviction of David McCallum, an innocent Brooklyn man who spent 29 years incarcerated for a 1985 murder he did not commit.

“When I inherited the DA’s office in November, I took on over 100 claims of wrongful convictions,” he said. “We deserve to have a DA’s office that is second to none. We don’t need to have a reputation for being a place where people are framed for murders that they didn’t commit. I am determined to get to the bottom of these cases.”

Thompson also said that he wants to expand the Civil Rights Bureau and the Domestic Violence program across Brooklyn.