Monday, August 24, 2009
Last Thursday night in Crown Heights there was another shooting. One person died. It was one of those killings that didn't make the paper. It on Albany Avenue near St. John's Place. There were a lot of people out. It was a nice warm summer evening. The cops were prompt. They asked people if anyone saw anything. No one saw a thing. One lady reportedly said of the shooter, "I know the boy. I known him since he was a baby. And I know his momma. And I ain't telling you $h**.
Who would have expected otherwise? The cops knew as soon as the call came in that there would be no witnesses. Those who saw the killing and knew the killer or had a clue might have been friends with the perp. Or maybe they didn't want to get killed for "being a snitch."
Meanwhile, in this zip code, life just got a little bit cheaper. Someone lost a son, and the one who who killed him is still out there. No one is going to get up and shout about it. No one is going to ask questions at City Hall or any place else. The murder ticker for the 77th precinct just went up by one. At the end of the year, we are going to smile and say that the numbers look nice. No one will give a second look at that small tombstone with the date of birth and the date of death just too damn close together. Maybe I'll see the young man's name over an R.I.P. on the rear window of a car with his D.O.B. and his D.O.D. in script with a picture of a tombstone. Maybe he'll get a nice mural.
There are lots of car window memorials and lots of murals for kids who died before their time. As a matter of fact, there are way too many.
I can't paint. And I don't have a car with a large enough windshield forthe names of all those shot in my zip code. But I do have suggestions on how to get tips in places where people don't like to talk to cops. My suggestions are as follows.
1) We have 911 for emergencies. We have 411 for directory assistance. In New York City we have 311 as a general number for information about anything in city, state or federal government. We need a number to phone in information about unsolved crimes. 811 would be good. It's three digits and easy to remember. Have a publicity blitz. Pass out 811 key chains, 811 pens. Turn it into a household word, so that anyone with a pulse knows that they can go to their apartment, go to a quiet corner and quietly call in a tip to an unsolved crime.
2) Bring camcorders to crime scenes. Before the crime scene investigators get there, do a sweep on the camcorder. And get some shots of the crowd. When you get back to the precinct, make stills of the people at the crime scene. Because life is a wheel. Later on, one of their loved ones might be dead. Maybe one of them will get arrested and need a break. Having some still pictures of a crowd might be a useful tool later on.
3) Continue to ask right at the crime scene for information. Who knows? You might get lucky. Some people become millionaires playing Lotto. Miracles happen.
4) Offer anonymous rewards to 811 tipsters. There are a lot of motives for dropping a dime. There are good citizens. There are angry girlfriends and people with a conscience. When all that fails, money is worth a try.
5) Set up 811 so prostitutes who want to get out of "the life" can arrange to be "arrested" and put into a safe house where they can get a new life going for themselves. It's worth a try.
But you have to streamline the process so everyone knows that you can phone in a tip. You have to make it so you won't have to write some precinct number on a matchbook.
People in rough zip codes need some help in reclaiming the dignity every life should have. Some of it has to come from not insulting cops who would like to put away a killer. Some of it has to come with setting up tools to fight the problem. I'm not talking about money. I'm talking about some creativity and putting our money into the right solutions.
There are a lot more guns on the streets than there are in the police stations. Everyone knows that. Winning this war(And it is a war.) is not about outgunning the enemy. It's about using our resources wisely. Police can not be everywhere. Civilians can be in a lot more places. Police have what they need to do their job. It's the civilians who need some help and guidance to do their part as well.
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