by Andrew Arnett

I went by my girlfriend’s house yesterday. She lives in an apartment building in East Flatbush.

I ran into Jim, the super, in the lobby.

“How’s it going Jim?” I said.

“Hey, what’s up Gene?”

I hadn’t seen Jim in weeks but I was meaning to ask him if he knew anything about a shooting that took place on the block recently.

“Did you hear about a shooting that happened here last week?” I said, “It was on the news.”

“Yeah man,” he said, “It was terrible. It happened right in front of my eyes. Me and Rick were moving the garbage out and some guy runs by, stops right in front of us and pulls out a gun.”

Jim dropped into a crouch.

“We covered our heads and he swung the gun around and started firing at this guy behind him. Then he kept on running.”

“Holy sh#t!,” I said. “That happened right in front of you?”

“Yes, right in front of my eyes. The guy ran right by me. It was scary as hell.”

“What happened to the guy he shot?”

“That guy died. Yeah, they took him to the hospital and I think he died.”

“That’s terrible,” I said.

“And you know what?” he added. “It happened right in front of the police. You know how there are always two cops stationed on our corner? Well, they didn’t do anything. They just stood back.”

“What the hell were they thinking?” I said.

“They were thinking, ‘let them shoot themselves. We’re not getting involved.”

“You can’t blame them,” he added.

“That’s just nuts,” I said.

“That’s nothing,” he said. “You always hear gunshots going off at all hours now. There were two people shot up the street a couple of days ago. And someone else down on Church Street. It’s crazy around here.”

This is not normal. East Flatbush, though not the garden spot of the universe, is normally a relatively safe, blue collar neighborhood. It is a place where working class families live and raise their children, free of the urban blight that infects other locals like East New York and Brownsville.

This morning, Wednesday, August 26, I woke up and turned on the TV. News 12 was reporting on a shooting that took place in Brooklyn during the overnight. I thought the images from the scene looked familiar, and sure enough they were. It was East Flatbush, right around the corner from where I was the previous day. In fact, the location was on the route where I would take the dog for walks – Avenue D and Newark Avenue.

Three people were shot around midnight – a 41-year-old man shot in the arm and neck, a 35-year-old in the chest and a 32-year-old with a bullet wound to the neck. The three were taken to Kings County Hospital. The 41-year old was D.O.A. and the other two in critical, but stable condition.

The television footage showed a long trail of blood that ran along the sidewalk behind a yellow police line.

Loretta Francis, a local resident, told reporters, “I was coming down the block, thank the heavens we didn’t make the turn or we would have been in the crossfire.”

“It is getting wild over here, there are far too many shootings over here – it’s like the wild, wild west,” said resident Carlos Hernandez.

According to the report, numerous shootings have occurred on this block. The local residents are blaming the violence along Avenue D on gang wars. Police are investigating connection to the war between the Bloods and Crips which ignited when Canarsie rapper Pop Smoke was killed in February. Five rival gang members were recently arrested in that ongoing case.

The NYPD July 2020 crime stats, released on August 3, prove that shootings in New York city are skyrocketing, compared to the same time last year. It showed a 177% increase this past July, with a total of 244 shootings, compared to 88 shootings in July 2019.

The stats show a 72% year-to-date increase, with 450 by July 2019 compared to 772 by July 2020.

Murders are up as well, jumping from 181 by July 2019 to 235 by July 2020 – a 30% increase.

Many New Yorkers believe the increase in violence is a direct result of the city’s decision to disband the Police Department’s anti-crime unit in June. Consisting of 600 plain-cloths police officers, these anti-crime units  were an elite force charged with stopping violent crimes and ridding the streets of illegal guns.

The decision to disband the unit was a response to the weeks of protest against the brutal death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, said, “This is a seismic shift in the culture of how the N.Y.P.D. polices this great city,” adding, “It will be felt immediately in the communities that we protect.”

Police officers working in the anti-crime units have since been re-assigned to other departments of the force.

While lamenting the increase in crime, Mayor Bill De Blasio is doubling down on the Police Department’s decision, saying at a press conference: “He felt — and I agreed with him — that it was important to make a change in our strategy, to use the talents of our officers in new and better ways,” adding. “I don’t know anyone who knows more about how to do that than Dermot Shea.”

This week, at the RNC, the Republicans were taking full advantage of the alarming crime stats, blaming the Democrats for the increase in violence. In a major coup for the Republicans, the RNC tapped Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, New York City’s largest police union, to speak at the RNC.

“Anti-crime’s mission was to protect New Yorkers by proactively preventing crime, especially gun violence,” said Patrick J. Lynch. “Shooting and murders are both climbing steadily upward, but our city leaders have clearly decided that proactive policing isn’t a priority anymore.”

Despite the finger pointing, the fact is that all this is occurring under a Republican administration. Is four more years of the same going to put an end to the bad craziness?

These were some of the thoughts racing through my mind while I was buying some groceries near my house in Bushwick. While walking home, I heard a loud bang, like a gunshot, up the street.

Was it another shooting?

Nah, it must have been a car back firing.

Yes, I’m sure it was that.


NYC SHOOTINGS: Two dead, six wounded in ongoing gun violence in Queens and Brooklyn

NYC Shootings: Ten people shot in three boroughs in ongoing gun violence

City of bullets: Shootings across NYC surge by 177% in July 2020, NYPD reports