2006-09-22 / Editorial/Opinion

Opinions

Black On Black Violence, Drugs Must Be Eradicated

One only has to read The Wave's front page in last week's edition to understand that a long-standing problem has not gone away despite the apparent renaissance that Rockaway has been undergoing for the last few years or so. On Thursday, police officers from several NYPD agencies swept portions of Rockaway, arresting 96 people - almost all of them residents of low-income housing projects on the peninsula. Those sweeps, which involved hundreds of undercover drug buys at the Ocean Bay Houses, the Beach 41 Street Houses and the Ocean Village Houses point out that, despite the aura of revitalization, a critical stumbling block remains. While we know that the drug dealers and gang members make up a small percentage of the population living in those housing complexes and while we understand that the great majority of those who live there are good, hard-working people, the fact remains that the majority of drug dealing and crime have a genesis in those and other housing projects throughout the peninsula. A few weeks ago, a Wave staffer went carefully through the bound volumes of this paper for the past three years. That staffer came up with a startling fact: Nearly seventy-five percent of the gun incidents and shootings reported in Rockaway during that time period occurred within a mile of Beach 54 Street and Beach Channel Drive, which seems to be the epicenter of Rockaway crime, and which encompasses all three housing complexes. And, in the majority of those shootings, many of them homicides, drug dealers and gang members were involved. In a number of the cases, the victims refused to cooperate with police trying to find the perpetrators. In other cases, the victims themselves had long criminal records. The low-income houses on the peninsula have long been hotbeds of crime perpetrated by a small number of people who live there, and that the great majority of crime is black on black, with both the perpetrators and the victims coming from within those housing projects. We are not saying that blacks are criminals nor that the housing projects should be closed and demolished (as they have done in Chicago under similar circumstances). But, it is important that young black children, particularly those surrounded by violence and drug dealing, be shown that there is a reward in life for education and for proper behavior. Now, they often see a reward only for gangster behavior and drug dealing that seems to their young eyes to provide all that they could want. It is time for black legislators and community organizations such as the NAACP to get involved in eradicating both the drug dealing and the black on black violence plaguing the community. City Councilman James Sanders had promised more than a year ago to begin an anti-violence program. He did run some "Stop the Violence" hip-hop concerts in other parts of his district, but so far has not adequately addressed the Rockaway problem. The NAACP, which responded positively to an editorial earlier in the year calling for action, has done virtually nothing to stop the violence. We have never heard of Michelle Titus addressing the problem in a Rockaway venue. Of course, there are drugs and gun violence in other parts of the peninsula as well, as some will point out. And, of course, not all of the drug dealing and gun violence in Rockaway is perpetrated by criminals who are black. But we need an educational campaign that brings black men, whose education has made them successful in life to the schools to speak with and counsel young blacks and show them that education has more of a reward than drug dealing and gangsterism. A young black student should not be ostracized by his or her peers for "acting white," if he or she wants an education. A person, black or white, should not be billed as racist for pointing out a truth or for calling attention to a serious community problem. This is a serious problem that must be addressed by our elected officials and civic leaders. It will not go away without being addressed aggressively by the community that suffers most from it.

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