What caused the murder rate in one Brooklyn neighborhood to drop 65 percent?

EAST FLATBUSH, Brooklyn (WABC) -- When the New York Police Department released crime statistics for 2018 in the first week of January 2019, one community stood out.

The area policed by the 67th Precinct, East Flatbush, Brooklyn; had experienced a significant drop in homicides despite leading the city for murders just the year before.

"It's unbelievable what has happened here," said Mayor Bill de Blasio during a press conference congratulating the police and the community for their hard work.

In 2017, murders in the 67th Precinct rose more than 20% from 14 homicides in 2016 to 17 homicides in 2017 even as the homicide rate citywide fell.

Police focused their efforts.

"Every day cops are out here interacting with people, building bonds that continue to take illegal guns off the street," said NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill.

Community advocates also played a vital role in reducing violence and improving relationships.

Eyewitness News tagged along one afternoon as the team at G-MACC Inc. canvassed the East Flatbush neighborhood.

The organization is committed to making a positive change in the lives of those impacted by or vulnerable to violence.

"We're talking about stopping shootings," said G-MACC Founder Shanduke McPhatter. "You change the dynamics."

McPhatter and his team are focused on connecting young people and their families to alternatives to violence including job training, education resources, and mentorship.

McPhatter describes himself as a former gang member who realized it was time to change after being incarcerated.

"Being part of the violence, I realized what I went through was a way to make a change," McPhatter said. "We tell them to be more than a color, to break the cycle and to stop the violence."

McPhatter said he's noticed the efforts of police who he credits with approaching the community in a more team-oriented fashion in the last year.

"I've seen some change in command. There has definitely been some change in how they respond to the community," McPhatter said indicating the change has reduced a "them vs. us" impression. "Yes, they've done a good part."

McPhatter and his team have also invested countless hours making the streets safer.

Residents are noticing.

In 2018, only 6 people were killed in the 67th precinct, a 65% reduction from the year before.

Mahnefah Gray grew up in the neighborhood and lost her teen brother to violence. She says she's seen the change.

"It's the best feeling. You don't have to wake up to a text or something in the news that someone died in your neighborhood," Gray said.

Both McPhatter and police agreed the change is proof that investing in the community one person at a time can truly make a difference.

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