13-Year-Old Questioned In Redfern Shooting
Crime is down throughout New York City. That's been the major theme trumpeted by City Hall and the Police Commissioner ever since the New Year. And, to an extent, the statement is true, with the exception of one of Rockaway's own police precincts, in which crime has increased slightly while the overwhelming majority of precincts have seen crime drop.
Statistics from the NYPD's CompStat system show that serious crime is up in Far Rockaway's 101 Precinct, and the early returns for 2008 show that the crime rise might stretch into the New Year.
The violent trend of serious crimes continued last Saturday night, January 5, when an 18-year-old was fatally shot in the head behind the drug and gang infested Redfern Housing Project, leaving police searching continuously for clues and a motive. This has led them to the questioning of a 13-year-old suspect who allegedly played a role in the first murder of 2008.
The victim, Neville Ward, was found with a single gunshot wound to his head at 11:20 p.m. in the back end of Redfern houses at 1530 Hassock Street. He was rushed to Jamaica Hospital and pronounced dead on arrival just minutes before midnight, authorities said.
Police sources say that the investigation is ongoing and that they recovered a 38- Caliber handgun from the scene.
Early police speculation indicated that the incidents were gang related and that Ward may have been shot for refusing to join a local gang.
Most of the locals close to the Redfern community have indicated that Ward was one of the "good kids", and were upset and surprised to hear about his untimely death.
Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska, said that he thought that the crime rate in and around the Redfern Houses was finally under control.
"It is really sad," Gaska said. "Things were quiet in Redfern for a while and I really thought we had turned a corner for the better."
Donovan Richards, Chairman of the NAACP Youth Council said that Ward was not like the typical gang related victims and, based on Ward's reputation, Richards can almost be certain that Ward was not out looking for trouble Saturday night when he met his fate.
"He wasn't a regular," Richards said. "The police didn't even know his name because he wasn't known for being a troublemaker or gang member."
Regardless of who Ward was as a person, his murder still highlights a growing number recorded by the NYPD CompStat Unit. The CompStat Unit, which analyzes and records crime statistics throughout New York City, details the peninsula's east end 101 Precinct as one of only five precincts city-wide that saw an increase in crime during the year 2007 with a reported 9.15 percent increase in overall crime. That leads the city in crime increases in a year that the NYPD has been praised for drastically lowering crime rates.
That drop in crime rates citywide means little to the people who live within the 101 Precinct. Statistics show that they live in one of the most violent communities in the city.
One local told The Wave that the streets outside his home are no safer today than they were yesterday or were even a year ago.
There is some good news because the 101 Precinct, despite seeing an increase in total crimes, has seen a slight but significant drop in arguably the most important categories of public safety, which are murder, rape and robbery. The 2007 murders dropped to four from seven in 2006 and rape and robbery saw a 23.8 and 12.7 percent decrease respectively.
Murder, rape and robbery are the only crimes within the 101 Precinct that have seen a drop in crimes. Every other type of serious crime is on the rise, including felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny assaults. The 101 Precinct's 9.15 percent increase is well above the 2007 city average, which currently stands at a 6.20 percent decrease in total crime. That leaves many close to the community disappointed, but not surprised that crime in Far Rockaway is at the top of the NYPD's list.
The recent homicide of Ward doesn't help the 101 Precinct's attempt to improve the numbers from last year's unacceptable increase in crime either. The murder is leaving many to wonder who is really safe on the crime-plagued streets of Far Rockaway if someone who wasn't even in a gang could be shot in cold blood.
"This shooting is a bad way to start the year off," Richards said. "There has to be something done with a massive anti-violence campaign."
Richards and the NAACP Youth Council are trying to counter the actions in housing projects such as Redfern and instill the power of healing and hope by organizing a massive "Day of Healing" on January 27, in Redfern.
City Councilman James Sanders, who represents Far Rockaway, says that the Mayor and his administration have cut promised funds to fight gang violence. Sanders charged that all of the youth violence funds are being diverted to Manhattan by a "Manhattan centered" administration.
"If they want to clean up the problem, they're going to have to provide the resources to do it," Sanders said.
Although in continuous support of the NAACP Youth Council's various public awareness campaigns, Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska has a different outlook and feels that in addition to the anti-violence "Day of Healing", the 101 Precinct needs enough resources at their disposal in order to reduce the amount of serious crimes on the rise in recent years.
"We need more cops on the streets," Gaska said. "The numbers are getting really thin around here."
"The 101 hasn't gotten enough cops from the last couple of graduating classes," he continued."When the 101 had enough cops they were one of the city's leaders in reduction of crime."
Gaska is referring to the 13 years prior to 2006 when the 101 Precinct had over a 75 percent reduction in crime during that span and was a city leader in reductions.
"Cops are retiring and there is no one to fill their shoes," Gaska said. "It is a shame that things have really turned for the worst."