31.07.2021

NYCs summer spate of gun violence continues with three drive-by shootings

Citing the boy’s death, Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, the recently installed leader of the Police Department’s Community Affairs Bureau, wrote on Twitter early on Monday that “we as a community, we as a police department denounce this disgusting violence”.

“This. Must. STOP!” he added.

The number of shootings in the city is up sharply in June and July compared with the same period last year, and the spike has helped push up the overall number of shootings for the year.

Five people were shot in Brooklyn on Monday in what the police described as three drive-by attacks within 20 minutes and about a mile of each other, continuing a wave of gun violence that has gripped New York this summer.

All the victims were the intended targets of the shootings, and all were expected to survive, said Rodney Harrison, the police department’s chief of detectives. The common element in the shootings, Mr Harrison said, was a white, four-door sedan.

Although the shootings did not add to the city’s gun-related death toll for the year, they occurred after another weekend of violence that was capped Sunday night with the killing of a 1-year-old boy who was shot while he was at a cookout with his family at a Brooklyn playground.

As of 12 July, there had been 634 shootings in 2020, compared with 394 in 2019. At that pace, the city was on track to top 800 shootings this year, which would be the first time that has happened in three years.

Twenty-eight people died of gunshot wounds in June, the police said, while 20 more were fatally shot in July as of the 12th.

The increase of gunfire has coincided with a fierce debate over the future of policing, a discussion touched off by the large-scale protests over police brutality and institutional racism that followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

In New York, state lawmakers banned police chokeholds last month and repealed a law that had kept police disciplinary files secret. City officials agreed in principle to shift roughly $1bn (£798.4m) from the police department’s budget to other agencies.

Senior police officials and leaders of the city’s police unions have baulked at the moves, saying they will hobble officers’ ability to deter violent crime, especially as shootings climb.

Police and union leaders have sought to link the uptick to, among other things, recent changes in the criminal justice system, including a new bail law, and to an effort to reduce the jail population amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Critics of the department, saying there is little evidence to support such claims, have pointed to another possible explanation for the continued wave of gun violence: that the police do not solve most shootings, leaving the assailants free to fire again.

The victims in the three drive-by shootings in Brooklyn ranged in age from 18 to 23, Mr Harrison said.

At around 6.19pm, he said, a 23-year-old woman was shot four times in the chest on Remsen Avenue in the Canarsie section.

About 10 minutes later and about a mile way, on Rockaway Boulevard, three men, all 19, were each shot once, Mr Harrison said: one in the elbow, one in the leg and one in the back.

Two minutes after that, he said, an 18-year-old male driver of a scooter at Flatlands Fourth Street and East 108th Street was shot once in the back. A woman who was riding with him was not hit by gunfire.

All the victims, none of whom the police identified, were taken to Brookdale Medical Centre, Mr Harrison said.

Several hours after the last shooting, on a block opposite the Fresh Creek Nature Preserve, a half-dozen residents stood near a length of police tape blocking traffic at East 108th Street and Flatlands Third Street.

One woman who declined to provide her name described the group as longtime “proud Canarsians” who felt safe in their surroundings. But she and several others who had gathered said there was a younger “gang” element that sometimes made its presence felt.

“A lot of those forces come from out of the neighbourhood into the neighbourhood,” Michael Stewart said.

“Seeing this,” he added, “is a real aberration.”

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