The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office aims to work hand in hand with local clergy members to stem gun violence ahead of a summer that threatens to be as deadly as the last.
The religious leaders will partner with the DA to try and prevent shootings before they start, utilizing clergy members’ deep roots in Brooklyn communities.
“Trusted community members can do a lot to stem violence,” District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said during a press conference at Restoration Plaza on May 26. “With the right training and support, community members can effectively intervene in disputes and in conflicts.”
Clergy will work to provide counseling to at-risk youth, diffuse conflicts before they lead to violence, and provide support to victims of gun violence. They will also oversee paid internships to 50 local youth through funding provided by the city and the District Attorney’s office.
Members in some of Brooklyn’s highest crime precincts will participate, including the 67th Precinct in East Flatbush, the 69th Precinct in Canarsie, the 70th Precinct in Flatbush, the 79th Precinct in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and the 83rd Precinct in Bushwick.
The program has some precedent in Brooklyn, with the work of the 67th Precinct Clergy Council, also known as the GodSquad. The GodSquad, led by Pastor Gil Monrose, has worked over the past decade to reduce gun violence in East Flatbush through collaboration with local NYPD officers. The District Attorney’s initiative seeks to emulate that program on a wider scale.
“We want to put ourselves out this summer,” said Monrose. “You are going to see us in these precincts, clergy who are out with their team, who are going to be engaging with young people on the ground through the evening.”
Gun violence in New York City spiked to levels not seen in a decade during the summer of 2020 as the city reeled from the pandemic, and has surged again as the weather has warmed in 2021, with over 500 people shot through the beginning of May, the highest number in over 10 years. The Brooklyn South precinct area has recorded 113 shooting incidents to date, according to NYPD data.
Gonzalez stressed that community-based solutions would be integral to bringing those numbers down.
“Law enforcement has to take a step back,” he said. “We can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”