CBS2’s Ali Bauman rode along with some of the top detectives combating gang violence in Brooklyn and got an exclusive look at the effort to get guns off the streets.
“These two gangs here have been engaged in constant combat for the last ten years,” said Lt. Ryan Gillis.
The 73rd Precinct in Brownsville, Brooklyn, is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in New York City.
“How widespread is their impact in Brooklyn?” Bauman asked.
“It spreads into Bedford-Stuyvesant. It spreads into Brooklyn South, it spreads into Crown Heights. This is the heart of it, though. This is the heart of where this beef initiated and this is still the heart of where we see the most incidents,” Gillis said.
Gillis is with the Brooklyn North Violent Crimes Squad, a group of detectives that investigate gang violence.
“The driving factor in shootings being up, I believe, is the gang violence that’s going on,” Gillis said.
The detectives brought Bauman to the Van Dyke Housing Complex, the site of an alleged gang shooting at the height of the pandemic in April.
“They came out right that door and they shot blindly into the crowd hanging out by the seats over here, and subsequently, an unintended female was shot,” Det. Mike Lassen said.
Their investigation led to the arrest of three suspects for attempted murder.
“Why is there more gang activity right now than last year?” Bauman asked.
“Because some prominent gang members have been shot and that creates a retaliatory effort,” Gillis said. “Back in the day, gang members used to mark their territory using graffiti. It doesn’t occur as much now. What we see is they’re using social media as their graffiti.”
Rival gangs taunt one another in song, which they post online.
In one song posted online, someone says, “First shot hit Von, good night.”
The lieutenant says immediately after that song was released, there were 22 shootings between two rival gangs.
“How do you use the music, then, to work in your investigations?” Bauman asked.
“When they reference those specific incidents that occurred, we know that’s something we have to have a laser focus on to try to solve because it’s obviously perpetuating the violence until someone is brought to account for that act,” Gillis said
The lieutenant says while NYPD budget cuts haven’t directly impacted his squad, disbanding of the anti-crime unit this summer, which was also tasked with getting guns off the street, has added to their workload.
“We undertake all those tasks and we assign as much personnel as we can, but as we’re working on one from last week, two, three more are coming in,” Gillis said.
Civil unrest and calls for police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death has also had an effect.
“Some people have a mistrust for police. Some people are hesitant to call the police or seek out the police as help. Has that had any kind of impact on you this year?” Bauman asked.
“I do see that,” Gillis said. “If the community doesn’t help us, we’re never gonna achieve the goal that we wanna achieve, and that goal is to hold all these gang members that are driving this violence accountable for their actions. We need the communities’ help because they’re the ones that know exactly what occurred.”
Year to date, gun arrests are down, but they’re rapidly increasing. The NYPD just marked a 25-year milestone with 160 gun-related arrests last week alone.
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