Assembly candidate: Gravesend is gang land

Turf war: Assembly candidate Russell Gallo points out an Avenue U Boys tag, which has been spray-painted over a tag from the gang Surenos 13.
Courtesy Russell Gallo

A Republican state assembly candidate who claims to be a gang expert says that violent, vengeful crews could be jacking up crime in Gravesend — and the proof is in the grafitti.

Russell Gallo, a former National Guardsman who’s taking on Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) this fall, attributed scrawlings he found on walls along Avenues U and X to gang warfare, which could be a key factor in the neighborhood’s rising crime rate.

“Gangs rob people; they sell drugs and break into people’s cars — these things are related,” said Gallo, who said he found tags belonging to Latino gangs such as La Raza and Surenos 13 during a brief stroll down Avenue U between W. 11th Street and Ocean Parkway. Several of the markings were scratched out, indicating that rival gangs are warring over territory, Gallo claims.

“Most politicians just think of it as [the act of] stupid kids, but it’s really much more scary than that,” Gallo said. “There are rival gangs roaming the streets and a lot of the shootings going on are probably connected to this.”

But authorities at the 61st Precinct said Gallo’s claims are completely overblown.

“This isn’t really a gang neighborhood, I’ve never seen any evidence of organized gang activity,” said one cop.

“Sounds like a politician looking for a step up,” said another officer.

But Gallo countered that the cops aren’t properly trained in detecting and combatting gang activity.

Our street cops are not being trained to recognize gang markings, it’s extra training and the cops need it,” he said. “They have specialized gang units, but I think more street cops need the training as well.”

Gallo’s concerns aren’t completely unfounded: to date, crime is up more than 50 percent in the 61st Precinct.

Robbery rates have risen 94 percent compared to last year, from 71 hold ups in 2011 to 138. Burglaries are up 30 percent from 110 complaints to 143 this year, and grand larceny is up 85 percent from 203 to 377 complaints.

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

More from Around New York