Recent gunfire incidents in Downtown Brooklyn spotlights concentrated court system
Gang members from other neighborhoods stash guns, cause havoc on way to court
On a workday, from the 30th floor of 16 Court St., the editorial staff at the Brooklyn Eagle ran to the window overlooking the intersection of Fulton and Adams streets as a shooting incident unfolded.
Three people, including two innocent bystanders, were shot in broad daylight in front of the GAP Outlet Store on Fulton Street, just after lunch hour on Friday, July 13.
Police and ambulances converged on the scene and a police helicopter buzzed overhead as the victims were taken to hospitals. Shell casings, marked by small red NYPD cones, littered the sidewalk of the borough’s busiest shopping street.
It was the first of three gunfire incidents in three months in the Downtown area. On Aug. 1, gunfire ran out at MetroTech (no one was hit), and on Oct. 1 a gunman opened fire at the corner of Pearl and Willoughby streets during school dismissal hours, missing its target but sending students from nearby Brooklyn Friends School running in panic.
BP Blames Gang Members Going to Court
At a press conference on Friday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams blamed the recent outbreak of random gun violence on gang members and other criminal defendants visiting court and parole offices in Downtown Brooklyn.
“What we learned this morning is that a great deal of the crime that we are seeing is being generated from outside the Downtown area. Men and women who are participating in gang behavior in other parts of the borough find themselves Downtown to attend a probation appearance or visit their probation officer, for a court appearance or even truancy [court],” he told reporters following a meeting with representatives of schools, community and residential organizations, businesses and law enforcement organizations.
“It appears that everyone who was involved in those shooting was one way or another affiliated with the court system or affiliated with some form of criminal behavior,” Adams said.
“Downtown is the home of Family Court, Criminal Court, Supreme Court — so we are the place where people who commit crimes all come down to.”
The Downtown area also includes the Surrogate, Housing, Bankruptcy, Federal and Appeals courts.
During its investigation, the Police Department found guns stashed at various Downtown sites, Adams said.
“People who were on their way to court who appeared to have hidden guns on construction sites or other locations,” he said.
Keep them Separated
The BP said one possible solution would be to change court dates to keep groups who had “a beef with each other” separated.
“We learned from one of the NYPD personnel who attended the meeting that it appears that a large number of young men and women come down to court on Thursdays because that’s a calendar day where they are visiting the court. We’re trying to … look at spreading those times out throughout the week so there’s not a concentration of people there with a beef with each other,” he said.
The office is also looking at probation visits “so there’s some coordination if there’s a belief that someone is coming to their parole or probation officer that if there’s a beef that’s attached to their visit, the notification is made.”
A large number of children are released from school in Downtown Brooklyn between 2:30 and 4 p.m., he said. The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and many schools in the area are coordinating their release times to create a safe corridor to transportation.
Other moves include coordinating safety personnel and using preexisting cameras that businesses already have to monitor their businesses. “We want them also to be monitoring the street area and connect to the NYPD system,” Adams said. He also wants to develop a system that will allow people “to use their smartphones and other communication devices to monitor a particular situation and assure the Police Department is notified so they can respond.”
NYPD has a system called a Smart Unit in place to canvass and monitor Facebook and other social media, he added. “Using technology and proper deployment of manpower, we believe we can turn back any escalation in crime in the Downtown area.”
They Knew Each Other
Community Board 2’s District Manager Robert Perris told the Brooklyn Eagle that some incidents related to the courts were to be expected.
“Kings County is the most populous county in New York State and Downtown Brooklyn is the central business district for Kings County. So the courts are located here, people have court dates have to come here, and unfortunately that sometimes means that gang violence from other parts of Brooklyn manifest in situations we would like to avoid in Downtown Brooklyn.”
Perris added, “My information is that the groups involved were the same groups in all three incidents … They were people who knew each other from elsewhere.”
When asked if he thought the increase in incidents was a trend, Perris said, “It’s sort of like weather. You have a series of hot days. Is that a blip or is that something larger? We’ll only know later.”
The meeting was attended by representatives of the 84th Precinct Community Council, Transit District 30, the NYC Department of Probation, NYPD, the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, Community Board 2, Councilmember Stephen Levin, Se. Velmonette Montgomery, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Brooklyn Friends School, Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School, Brooklyn Law School, City Tech, M.S. 8, St. Joseph’s High School, NYC Department of Public Safety, BellTel Lofts, Brooklyn Heights Association and Heights and Hills.