2008-11-28 / Columnists

It's My Turn

By Marquez Claxton Retired NYPD Detective City's Abandonment At Root Of Far Rockaway's Violence

Retired NYPD Detective Marquez Claxton is a co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, and a candidate for City Council in the 31st District. This article first appeared in the Daily News.

The crime wave that continues to drown Far Rockaway in fear and frustration is the end result of the perfect storm of neglect.

Resource starvation, governmental apathy and planned gentrification have further destabilized the tenuous existence of thousands of families on the peninsula. The fact, supported by statistics, is that violence has been out of control in Far Rockaway for several years.

The rest of the city just didn't hear or care about it.

Violence, whether in Far Rockaway, the South Bronx or Columbine, Colorado, is the residual effect of a host of societal breakdowns and cannot be adequately suppressed until the root causes are clearly identified and comprehensive preventative strategies are implemented. One of those strategies must be the immediate infusion of employment opportunities for the residents, who in large part have been abandoned and economically isolated.

Peace in Far Rockaway is becoming difficult to maintain because hope and opportunity, sadly, have become nothing more than novel ideas. Following the killing of 15-year-old Brandon Bethea in the Redfern Houses, community outrage led to the reopening of the shuttered, remodeled community center. Three months later, after the cameras left, again it took the community and emergency funding, albeit temporary, to prevent the second closing.

During the community center's initial renaissance, violent crime was dramatically reduced in Redfern. The clear message is that we see no future for our youth or even worse, their future is a bad investment. Youth and gang violence are deeply rooted not only in the breakdown of the "family," but also in socioeconomic/employment deprivation. Any two-bit sociologist can connect the dots. We really need a two-bit sociologist in city government.

The "Bloods," "Crips" and all the other domestic terroristic street thugs have made it unsafe for our children, seniors and women to walk outside. These imbeciles are not the rule but rather the sad exception. Even sadder, the majority of decent, hard-working people have not been given the support to prevent the carnage.

Even the police have bailed out on Far Rockaway.

The current NYPD strategy is purely reactive. Because the Housing Police do not regularly patrol or enforce in the Far Rockaway developments, the local precincts have to do double duty. Their strategy is to respond when called. So much for proactive omnipresence. Coincidentally, any two-bit economist can tell you that public safety is a fundamental requirement for any committed economic development plan.

There are more questions than answers, and the experts don't even bother to offer a plan for substantive, long-term change, because this ongoing crisis is man-made and government supported. While other communities in Queens have been focused primarily on neighborhood stabilization, Far Rockaway is in desperate need of development and economic sustenance.

In spite of public perception, Far Rockaway is a community of families. Generations that have lived on the peninsula, and have no desire or plan to evacuate. There are families that have endured decades of deprivation, yet have found ways not just to survive, but also to thrive. This is not a community that willingly accepts violence. This is a community victimized by the violence and demanding an end to it. There have been and continue to be forums, workshops and meetings discussing ways to end the violence. The missing component has been the interest of the city and the resources that are delivered to more affluent and politically-connected communities. This is a community under siege, underserved and invisible to the rest of the city.

Far Rockaway, with its over-saturation of housing developments, has long been treated as the city's toss-away location. The violence in Far Rockaway is the manifestation of unconscionable benign neglect.

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