2010-12-10 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Commentary By Howard Schwach

While sometimes statistics lie, there is no doubt that the number of homicide deaths in New York City is rising precipitously, after a few years when the number dropped each year.

The Daily News recently did an analysis of the 476 people murdered through the beginning of December. That number is up about ten percent from the same time last year.

Some of the statistics are startling and they tell a compelling story about New York City in general and Rockaway in particular, because a Wave study shows that the statistic’s on our small peninsula more or less mirror those of the city.

The analysis shows that 83 percent of those who were killed were male, 17 percent female.

Two out of three of the victims were black, one in four Hispanic. Only four percent were white and three percent were Asian.

A study of the suspects in those murders shows that 90 percent were male and only 10 percent female.

Of the suspects, 62 percent were black, 31 percent Hispanic, four percent white and four percent Asian.

Think about that for a moment.

Ninety-three percent of those murdered so far this year were minorities and 93 percent of the suspects in those murders were minorities as well.

The ages of the victims and suspects are interesting and informative.

Nearly half (46 percent) of the victims were between 25- and 40-yearsof age. A quarter were between 18- and 24-years-of-age. Only a quarter were between 41- and 70-years-of-age.

A startling statistic, especially for those who have not been following the story in recent years, is that nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of the victims had arrest records.

Criminals killing criminals at a high rate. The police, perhaps with some disrespect, call those cases where both the suspect and the victim have long arrest records “NHI cases,” which stands for “No Humans Involved.”

In addition, arrest records show that 49 percent of the victims and 53 percent of the killers were involved with drug use or sale.

Of the suspects in those 476 murders, nearly half (42 percent) are in the 18- 24 age range, while one in three are 25- to 40-years-of-age. The other 22 percent are more than 40-years-of-age.

As to motive, nearly half (202 of 476) of the shooting events were due to unspecified or unknown disputes between the shooter and the victim. Thirteen percent were due to domestic disputes, 12 percent to drugs, nine percent to robberies and eight percent gang-related.

Sixty-two percent of the victims were shot, 21 percent stabbed. The other 17 percent were done in by blunt force trauma (beating), asphyxiation, arson and undetermined causes.

The News report had some other interesting tidbits as well.

Most of the victims were murdered on Saturday (89 murders), the least number on Tuesday (58 murders).

Nearly 80 of the murders were between the hours of 3 and 5 a.m.

Sixty-five percent were outside, 35 percent inside.

So, who is our typical murder victim? A male black between 25- and 40- years-of-age who has an arrest record and had, at one time or another, either used or sold drugs. He was shot on a Saturday night, between 3 and 5 a.m.

Who is our typical murder suspect?

A male black between the ages of 18 and 24 who has a previous arrest record and had, at one time, used or sold drugs.

Sound familiar? It should. If you go back in The Wave’s archives over the past 10 years, you will find that those two profiles are valid for Rockaway and that the great majority of both victims and suspects had a connection to one of the several public housing complexes that dot the peninsula.

In fact, a statistical investigation that I did several years ago showed that nearly 80 percent of the gun-related murders and shooting incidents in Rockaway centered on Beach 45 Street and Beach Channel Drive.

The fact that 90 percent of the suspects are black males between the ages of 18 and 24 sets up an interesting paradigm.

There are lots of complaints each year in Rockaway about the disrespect that local police show black males in that age group.

They are harassed in the city housing projects, where police regularly perform vertical patrols, stopping and questioning anybody who seems not to belong in the building, who is loitering.

City Councilman James Sanders Jr. even held a protest demonstration two years ago, decrying how the police treat black youth. The impact of that demonstration was dampened, however, by the fact that in the month prior to the demonstration, several black youth were shot by several other black youth, all of whom, victim and perp alike, had police records.

It’s easy for politicians on the make and the NAACP to make the police a target by calling them racist, but it is a lot harder to accept the facts and attempt to do something about it, to address it in the black community.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way you keep your political power, by pointing out the uncomfortable truth of the situation.

After the Sean Bell incident a few years ago, our black legislators set up a Tripartite Commission, made up of Congressman Gregory Meeks, State Senator Malcolm Smith and City Councilman James Sanders Jr to look into the incident and into the community’s interaction with police.

The commission found, not surprisingly, that both the Bell case and the community’s interaction with the police were problems for the police to solve, not for the community to solve.

The statistics, however, say otherwise.

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