NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There have been nearly 200 shootings in Brooklyn so far this year, more than any other borough.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported Tuesday, the district attorney is teaming up with local clergy in hopes of reducing gun violence.
The increase in shootings is impossible to ignore. There have been 537 in New York City so far this year, which is nearly double the number reported over the same period in 2020.
Natasha Christopher’s 15-year-old son, Akeal Christopher, was shot and killed in Bushwick, Brooklyn nine years ago.
“It saddens me. It’s out of control,” Natasha Christopher said.
Since her son’s unsolved murder, Natasha has turned her pain into purpose, working with the 67th Precinct Clergy Council, otherwise known as “The God Squad,” a charitable organization that aims at making communities safer.
“We have to try all that we can do in order to save somebody this summer,” Pastor Gil Monrose said.
The God Squad is now partnering up with several other clergy councils and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office to reduce gun violence. The DA’s office will dispatch clergy to work as liaisons between law enforcement and the community.
“We’ll flag local disputes that come to our attention, and that may need interventions so the clergy can get out there,” DA Eric Gonzalez said.
“At my age, I think they want to talk to me, but at the same time they also trust me,” added Love City Church Inc. Pastor Nelvern Samuel.
On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the idea, saying in many cases the best solutions to crime are community based, like violence interrupters, trusted members of the community who mediate conflicts on the streets.
“Not foolproof. It doesn’t work every single time. But it can make a very big impact, and where it does, literally can save lives,” de Blasio said.
“By this program being planned together, it’ll help,” added Pamela Hight, a mother of a gun violence victim.
Along with street-level intervention, the partnership will also provide victim services, social services support, and mentorships.
The spiritual leaders said they have faith that with these new resources their work can end the senseless cycle of violence.
This new partnership between the clergy councils and the Brooklyn DA will also offer internships and work opportunities, and will prioritize community-based programs as alternatives to incarceration.