Gun violence is the leading cause of death for Black males under 35 and the second leading cause of death for Latino male and Black female youth. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated those numbers with homicides going up 30% across 34 cities in 2020, and gun assaults increasing by 8%.
New York City is no exception as the Big Apple tries to maneuver through the correlation between the rise in temperatures and an increase in gun violence.
On Monday night alone shootings across the city resulted in one person dead and eight wounded. Deven Campbell, 32, was fatally shot in Harlem near West 125th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Police found him with multiple gunshot wounds before he was taken to the hospital where he died.
A 19-year-old man was shot in his arm during a basketball tournament Monday night at Amsterdam Houses on the Upper West Side where several children were in attendance. It’s not clear where the bullet came from. The man was taken to the hospital where he is expected to survive.
Police say 21-year-old Keyshawn Cureton was fatally shot at the corner of West 136th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard Sunday night. He was taken to Harlem Hospital, which was across the street, where he was pronounced dead. Police are still looking for the suspect.
Two teenage siblings were among four people shot during a drive-by shooting in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Reports indicate the brother and sister, ages 17 and 19, were taken to Brookdale Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Last Saturday, a summit in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park organized by Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Changes Inc. (G-MACC Inc.) and Giant Thinking brought together local violence prevention partners to provide training and technical assistance for community violence intervention programs.
The training is part of the Fund Peace Summit Cross-Country series, a local and national initiative aimed at reducing gun violence by turning to community-based solutions. Fund Peace is a coalition composed of gun violence prevention and community violence intervention organizations across New York and the rest of the country. The coalition recently endorsed the introduction of the “Break the Cycle of Violence Act” by New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker.
In an interview with the AmNews, G-MACC Inc. Executive Director Shanduke McPhatter said the violence is caused by a mix of issues stemming from the pandemic.
“People have been in the house beefing [and] on the internet beefing,” he said. “Once these people walk out of their house in this hot sun, there’s no telling where they’ll see someone they have an issue with. That’s why things happen randomly. We have heavy law enforcement in our communities but we as the community need resources to be able to respond to these causes that are happening.”
McPhatter added that oftentimes police will arrive at the scene of a conflict and no one involved will do anything that would be deemed a crime. However, after law enforcement leaves a scene, and no arrests are made, the conflict will remain and erupt elsewhere, sometimes with deadly results.
Shootings are also happening in places with heavy tourist traffic. On Sunday, an argument in Times Square between several vendors resulted in a shooting where a 21-year-old bystander was grazed by a bullet. The shooting happened at Seventh Avenue and 46th Street in front of the Marriott Marquis hotel.
In May, three people were shot in Times Square during a shooting that occurred during the daytime.
“There was a dispute between one individual and several other individuals,” said Chief Rodney Harrison about the most recent Times Square shooter, who is allegedly a Black male assumed to be in his 20s. “What we’ve seen at this time under the investigation from Midtown South, it looks like one of the bullets, where the arguments were going on, one of the bullets ricocheted and hit our unintended target.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to “very aggressively” address the escalating pattern of shootings in the mainly tourist area. “It’s just an unacceptable state of affairs,” said de Blasio in his morning briefing on Monday. “This is a place that is so precious and so important to our city. It has to be safe.”
De Blasio announced the Times Square Safety Action Plan, which adds even more officers to an already heavily guarded area. Harrison clarified that the engagement of officers will be the key difference going forward.
“One thing that you will see going forward in that area of Midtown South by the bowtie is dozens of more police officers,” said Harrison. “After this shooting, and the shooting we had a couple of weeks ago, it’s important that we put a lot more of a police presence over there, trying to engage some of the issues we’re seeing with soliciting or aggressive panhandling of CDs. It’s also important that we work with consumer affairs, DOT, Times Square Alliance to see if we can get some undercover officers to find a way to engage these individuals that are soliciting. See if we can do a better job of enforcement in that area.”
Harrison said the engagement of solicitors is necessary to “clean up that area” of Times Square near 45th Street and Broadway and ensure that vendors are carrying out legal activities.
De Blasio stated that the bottom line is that as the summer continues, with a rise in tourism and commuters in the city, they are determined to “flood the zone” with more police presence. He said this is a time-honored tactic of moving police resources to needed areas of the city when a pattern emerges in an effort to prevent more shootings. The mayor and chief did not offer a specific number of officers that will be added to the area or alternate strategies if more police cannot solve the gun violence issue.
According to the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice, the Bronx is seeing the highest level of the city’s violence. So far this year, there have been 257 people shot in the Bronx compared to 108 at the same time last year.
The Bronx was the scene of a horrific shooting caught on surveillance video where a man stumbled onto two young children while another man shot at him. The children were not injured during the incident. Police arrested 27-year-old alleged gang member Michael Lopez who they say was the gunman.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea held a gun buyback event at Christ Church in the South Bronx last weekend. People who turned in operable handguns or assault rifles received a $200 pre-paid card plus a free iPad.
“The Bronx has seen far too many shootings since last summer,” Clark said. “One of the recent shootings involved two innocent children who were caught in the middle of a gunman and his target. Images of the helpless children have brought international attention to the gun violence plaguing our streets. We must stop these shootings.”