2008-05-30 / Front Page

'Operation COMP' Aimed At Gun Violence

By Miriam Rosenberg

Ramped up by the recent spate of gun violence that left two teens dead and five local residents with gunshot wounds, politicians, community leaders, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown went into emergency mode last week, meeting at the Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway to announce a new strategic plan to address gun violence.

State Senator Malcolm Smith hosted the meeting, held on May 22 at the Redfern Community Center, just a short distance from where Brandon Bethea, 15, was shot and killed the previous Saturday night.

"Many things need to be addressed," said Smith at the press conference following the meeting. "We dealt with a few things that we feel would make a difference in a short period of time."

Smith announced a new initiative called "Operation COMP" - which he said is an acronym for the four components of the program: cameras for Redfern; officer deployment; moving out the "bad apples"; and regular vertical patrols in the complex.

Smith said, "We have a [monetary] commitment from the elected officials [Assemblywomen Audrey Pheffer and Michele Titus and Councilman James Sanders Jr.]…we will put cameras in the eight buildings that are here in Redfern. Over the next three weeks groups will work together to form a concise plan, and the officials who appeared at the press conference will monitor 'Operation COMP' as it is put into action."

Both Kelly and Brown praised the local initiative.

"I'm hopeful [that progress can be made]," said Kelly. "The police can't do it alone. We need the community. I hope we're going to turn the corner."

The commissioner noted that overall crime is down in the 101 Precinct.

"But obviously that is no comfort to the families who have to bury these two young people," said Kelly, referring to Bethea and Tyrese Johnson, 16, who was killed on Beach 21 Street on May 19. Murders are up from one to five this year. Shootings are up. Shooting victims are up, and it is a cause of concern for the community and, of course, a concern for the department."

Kelly stressed the department's 'Operation Gun Stop,' which calls for citizens to blow the whistle on those who have illegal weapons in return for a monetary reward.

Kelly said that anyone who knows of someone with a gun should call 1-866- GUN-STOP. The calls will be kept completely anonymous, he said. The caller will be given a code number to pick up his or her money.

"It could be very effective getting guns off the streets," he continued. "We're awash with guns."

Kelly addressed some immediate actions his department took after the recent shootings.

"We have deployed an additional 50 officers a day in the 101 Precinct and the 100 Precinct, and that's an immediate aftermath of the shootings that have taken place over the weekend," said Kelly. "There's additional resources here. You'll see continued deployment of other units in the area."

Budget constraints will keep the NYPD from hiring any more officers in the near future, Kelly told The Wave. "There are certain strategies we can use to increase uniform presence in the area," he added. The commissioner declined to specify the actions he might take.

Brown has worked with the 101 Precinct on various operations over the years. In addition, his office has offered preventive programs for young people. Yet, he feels more needs to be done.

"We have to make sure we avoid the kind of things that took place this past weekend here in Far Rockaway," said Brown. "It's very troubling to all of us. We're committed very much to working closely with our elected public officers, our community leaders; and in the long run I'm very hopeful that Senator Smith's initiative will take hold and we will see better days."

Tenant Association president Doris Jacobs said that she believed the outcome of the meeting was "great."

"I do have hope that with the help of the community, the elected officials and NYCHA…we will get these things done and I'm going to make sure," said Jacobs. "Because, I'm not going to let it go."

Also at the press conference were Assemblywomen Audrey Pheffer and Michele Titus; Councilman James Sanders Jr.; and Doug Apple, the general manager for NYCHA.

In a related matter, the NYPD and Crime Stoppers have combined to offer a total of $12,000 for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the death of Bethea. Callers can remain anonymous and can refer to the code number Q-506 when calling the tips hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.

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