Marchers rally against gun violence in Brooklyn

August 5, 2012 7:22:08 AM PDT
New York City's controversial Stop and Frisk program drew some community support Saturday.

Relatives of some of the victims of Brooklyn's most recent violent crimes say the NYPD initiative could have saved their loved ones' lives.

It was part of the message at an annual peace rally, held in the wake of the recent rash of gun violence in the city.

Along with Stop and Frisk, other ideas were proposed as part of the solution, including marches, rallies, educational programs, and congressional reform of gun laws.

The annual "Love Yourself, Stop the Violence" rally, in honor of slain New York City Councilman James Davis, is still considered an effective tool by those who took to the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant Saturday.

"I feel like it's effective. I feel like it raises awareness," said college student Latchia Prine.

In the 19th year of the event, the cause seemed to resonate a bit louder.

"This summer has been disastrous, with the shooting a 4-year old child, a 3-year old being grazed recently in Brownsville," said Geoffrey Davis, of the James C. Davis Stop The Violence Foundation.

Community leaders say it's going to take more than marches and rallies to stop the violence.

But it's part of a long list of solutions they've come up with.

"There's no set one way," said Davis. "So while you're taking back the corners with the ministers, then you're also doing things through the arts, you're also doing peace breakfasts, you're also doing peace walks."

Another tool, they say: stop and frisk.

The program drew support from relatives of 15-year old Akeal Christopher, who was shot and killed in June on a street in Brooklyn.

"It would have made a difference. I agree with stop and frisk," said Akeal's grandmother, Sheila Assoon.

"We have to deal with the root of it," said Davis. "The root of it is, how did that weapon get in the hands of this person who doesn't have a license?"

Davis is calling on Congress to make annual reviews of gun licenses mandatory, so if a legal gun owner illegally sells their weapon, police can track it down a lot sooner.

Meanwhile, the number of street stops made under the heavily criticized "stop-and-frisk" strategy has dropped sharply, police officials said Friday.

The nation's largest police department stopped 133,934 people in April, May and June - down from 203,500 for the first quarter of this year. This year's second-quarter total marked a 25-percent decline compared with the same three months in 2011.

The strategy has resulted in well over a half-million stops each year - there were a record 684,330 last year - mostly of black and Hispanic men. Only about 10 percent are arrested.

Civil rights advocates say the practice is illegal and racially biased. Police officials call it a vital crime-fighting tool that has curbed shootings and other violence.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters on Friday that the decline was partly the result of a reduction in the number of rookie officers available to assign to high-crime neighborhoods. He also credited increased training of officers about what constitutes reasonable suspicion to stop, question and possibly frisk someone.

"We're hopeful the training is improving the quality of the stops," Kelly said.

In a statement, New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman called the recent results encouraging but not enough to repair the trust that's been damaged in minority communities.

"If past is prologue, we can expect that NYPD officers subjected at least 1,000 innocent New Yorkers a day to humiliating and unjustified street stops," Lieberman said. "That is nothing to brag about."

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