Gun Violence In The Rockaways

Recently a 12-year-old girl was shot in the left leg during a basketball tournament at Arverne View. Although the shot wasn’t fatal and the girl survived,it brings attention to a major issue that has been plaguing the Rockaways for decades: gun violence.

In recent weeks the peninsula has witnessed a spike in gun violence. Shootings in the 100th precinct are up 60 percent, while shootings in the 101st Precinct are up 73 percent so far this year compared to previous years, from 11 last year to 19 as of August 3. And during the last 28 days alone, there were 9 shootings compared to 4 during the same period last year within the precinct.

Many are all too eager to attribute the shootings to the reduction of Stop and Frisk and increased gang involvement around the peninsula. But what we don’t seem to realize is that there is a larger issue at hand. We have to look beyond policing tactics and examine the root causes of some of our greatest social ills, which include unemployment, poverty, poor school systems and lack of mentorships.

It is going to take more than increased police involvement and the ‘broken windows’ policy to solve the issue of gun violence. All these tactics have done is burden young people with first- time minor offences only for them to later get dismissed. These offenses often cause the loss of jobs, dismals from the military and suspensions from schools.

All of which can potentially add to the issue at hand. While we can make an educated guess as to what the issues are, the only way to know for sure is with authentic youth involvement.

Direct youth involvement offers a way to reach the young people of the community without making them feel as though they are being persecuted. By opening up a dialogue and offering a form of peer mentorship, these organizations can assist in bettering our youth through their abilities, strengths and experiences.

That is not to say that police involvement isn’t necessary, I believe if our law enforcement officers and our elected officials were to work in tandem with community based organizations, we can more easily discover the cause of these issues.

I applaud Councilmember Donovan Richards for seeking out funding for a Cure Violence program in Rockaway. But while these are all steps in the right direction, it won’t solve the issues alone. To fully maximize the impact of these dollars, we must first engage our youth in meaningful dialogue with elected officials, clergy, civic leaders and the entire community.