2007-01-26 / Front Page

Chief Details NYPD Plan To Stop Gun Violence Police Hot On Trail Of Suspects In Recent Shootings

By Howard Schwach

Assistant Chief Thomas Dale is the Commanding Officer of Patrol Borough Queens South, which includes the Rockaways.Assistant Chief Thomas Dale is the Commanding Officer of Patrol Borough Queens South, which includes the Rockaways. Reports of a bold, new plan for Rockaway called "Operation Chokepoint" that appeared in the media this week are greatly exaggerated, the top cop in Southern Queens told The Wave this week.

"They got it wrong," Assistant Chief Thomas Dale, the Commanding Officer of Patrol Borough Queens South, said. "What the new plan entails is lots of checkpoints, not chokepoints, something that we have been doing for a long time."

Dale and his commanders in the 101 and 100 Precincts, however, have beefed up the checkpoint process in the wake of the growing gun violence that rocked the peninsula at the end of last year, with three homicides and several shooting incidents over the last two months of the year.

"Any time there is a shooting or a robbery, we are going to do motor vehicle checks on both Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach Channel Drive," Dale said in a long interview with The Wave on Tuesday. "We are looking for the perps, for witnesses, asking for tips and giving out tips cards. This is not much different than what we have been doing all along."

Dale added that the recent gang wars going on in Rockaway might lead to intensifying the checkpoints, however.

"I know that all the construction going on in Rockaway has tied things up and this might add to that," he said, "but I hope that people understand that we have to do our job."

The plan is to separate the combatants from two local housing projects that have spawned gangs thought to be involved in all of the violence at the end of last year.

Police sources say that there has been an eight-month long battle between drug dealing gang members based in the Hammel Houses and the Ocean Bay Houses (formerly known as the Edgemere Houses).

Police developed the enhanced checkpoint plan in December, after Jamel Bryant, 17, known on the street as "Psycho," and a known Bloods member, shot at two cops who were looking for him in connection with earlier shooting of Cedric Smalls.

Sources say that Smalls, 18, was a member of a Hammels gang called GIB (Get It In Bricks).

Dale said that the gang names don't really matter, that the gang problem has been around for many years and that "the names change, but the problem they cause doesn't."

Published sources say that the GIB gang has been feuding with another, unnamed Hammels gang for supremacy over the drug trade in the project.

That gang, sources say, is comprised of several members of one family and has about 15 members in all.

Laton Spurgeon, 26, one of the family members and allegedly a gang member closely associated with the unnamed gang, was run over by a car and then shot while visiting his brother on Fernside Place in the Wavecrest section of Far Rockaway at the end of the year.

Published reports say that Spurgeon's murder was in retaliation for the hit on Smalls, who was a member of GIB.

Dale says that they are looking for the three men who were involved in the late 2006 shootings.

"We know who they are and we have them on the run," Dale said, adding that the one shooting incident in Rockaway this month took place on Thursday, January 18 and had nothing to do with the gang warfare.

"Things have calmed down," he said. "The precinct squads are on top of it and we hope it will stay calmed down."

Dale said that the 101 Precinct recently had 21 new officers assigned from the class that just graduated from the police academy and that the 100 Precinct was assigned seven or eight new officers.

Should another shooting incident take place, Dale said, the enhanced plan would involve setting up checkpoints along the two main east-west roads in Rockaway.

The plan is for the officers from the local precincts, who will be provided pictures of gang members as well as descriptions of the cars that they drive, to stop cars and look for suspects and other gang members moving from one housing project to the other as well as looking for other "suspicious activity" on the part of motorists.

The plan also calls for officers to respond not only to the area where the shooting took place, as has been the tradition in the past, but to respond to the other housing complex as well.

"We have a short time to accomplish our mission [after a shooting incident]," Dale said. "We'll get the job done."

City Councilman James Sanders held a community march on January 15 that took in the two warring housing projects. Sanders has promised a full-court press on the problem, bringing in other agencies to assist in the effort to stop gang violence.

Police sources say that many specialized units have been in Rockaway since late 2006, paying close attention to parolees and ex-convicts connected to the feud.

Police sources say that they believe the recent feud began on May 18 of last year, when a 25-year-old man was reportedly shot and wounded by a GIB member who saw him selling counterfiet GIB t-shirts.

Since then, sources say, there has been one shooting after another - one shooting incident in June, one in July, three in August, two in September and four more in December.

At least six homicides are thought to be connected with the feud as well, including the three at the end of the year.

The Ocean Bay Houses (which was once called the Edgemre Houses) center around Beach 54 Street and Beach Channel Drive. The Hammel Houses center around Beach 82 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

Anyone with information about the recent shootings is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.

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