2008-05-23 / Top Stories

Sanders: Release City Anti-Violence Funds

By Miriam Rosenberg

After Tuesday's press conference Tonya Thomas, a cousin of Bethea, stands by the memorial set up near the spot where the young girl was shot at Redfern Houses.
In a response to the shooting deaths this weekend of Brandon Bethea, 15, and Tyrese Johnson, 16, Councilman James Sanders Jr. pleaded with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to release anti-violence and anti-gang money that has been frozen by the city.

During a press conference on Monday evening, Sanders stood next to the memorial set up at the scene of Bethea's murder at Redfern Houses - known as the 'death trap' by residents - and asked that the more than $2 million the council had allocated for the citywide initiative more than two years ago be released.

"It's been held up, and I've been pleading with the city to release the money," said Sanders, who added that the Office of Management and Budget is holding the funds. Sanders added, "Mr. Mayor I appeal to you to release the funding so we can protect ourselves."

The councilman said the money could be used for cameras in the housing development, funding for a tenant patrol and providing them with communication devices such as walkie-talkies.

Doris Jacobs, the president of the tenant association said the violence has to stop.

"Our young people are getting killed every day," said Jacobs. "Summer hasn't even started yet." The tenants in the Redfern Houses have been asking for cameras to be installed on the premises for some time. "[These are the] same cameras we have been promised for years," said Jacobs.

Bethea's stepfather Robert Drakeford, joined Sanders and Mark Claxton, an official from the 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement organization, in a news conference the next morning.

Sanders called for the shooter or shooters to "man-up" and turn themselves in. "If you did the crime, then you got to do the time," said Sanders. "They will go easier on you. If they fail to do that, I'm calling on the community to protect your children. You have to turn them [the killers] in. The person they turn in may be the person that shoots your relative."

The same plea came from Drakeford.

"Whoever did this, turn yourselves in," said Drakeford. "We don't need any more bloodshed, any more violence."

The councilman again asked that the city release the anti-violence and anti-gang money and elaborated by saying, "Perhaps this young woman would not have been slain if the money had come to the community." He also questioned the wisdom of closing down the Redfern Community Center in a housing development that so desperately needs it.

"Putting more young people at risk in a dangerous situation already, I'm afraid we will see more victims who had no place to go," added Sanders.

Claxton announced that 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement was offering a $1,000 reward for the capture and conviction of those responsible for Bethea's death.

"We're asking for the community to take a more active role in apprehending these perpetrators," said Claxton. To those afraid to come forward Sanders added, "Anyone who doesn't step forward is aiding and abetting the killing of children."

Drakeford and his family had moved out of Redfern to Jamaica, Queens. The young girl was still attending school at MS 53, and was in Far Rockaway for the weekend visiting friends when she was murdered. Drakeford described his stepdaughter, better known as Dimples to those who knew her, as a "funny, loving and outgoing girl" who loved school.

"Dancing was everything. She loved to dance," said Drakeford, who added the girl's mother was getting [through her ordeal] "minute by minute."

"I'll remember her by her smile, her dimples," Drakeford said. "That she was always smiling. Happy."

Anyone with information can call the 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement hotline at 718-455-9059 or Sanders' Far Rockaway office at 718-471-7014.

The investigation continues, but on Tuesday, a police source told The Wave they had no clues for the shooting.

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