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With shootings on the rise, Operation H.O.O.D works to address root causes of violence in Coney Island

operation h.o.o.d members on the coney island boardwalk after an antiviolence rally
Operation H.O.O.D is working to address the root causes of violence in the midst of a violent summer in Coney Island, and hosted a rally in response to a shooting that injured five people on July 10.
Courtesy Jerry Cadet/Operation H.O.O.D

After an early-morning shooting at a Coney Island beach party left five people injured on July 10, local cure violence groups assembled to ensure a safe environment for the neighborhood’s youth during the summer months — just as they’ve been doing for years.

Operation H.O.O.D. (short for Operation Help Our Own Develop) has provided local resources to protect and mentor young adults in the area since its founding in January 2016. The group, which works under the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island, works to raise awareness about violence and develop social norms that reduce it.

Operation H.O.O.D. organizes response rallies any time gun violence takes place in the neighborhood, said the group’s community coordinator, Jerry Cadet. The organization came together on Thursday, July 14 in response to the July 10 shooting on the beach.

“We try to reach a resolution in basically making or at least giving an outlet for the parents and their children to feel safe moving forward,” Cadet said. “That’s why our office is such a blessing to the community, because there’s not too many parks that they can go to and actually and feel safe.”

police on coney island boardwalk after shooting violence
Operation H.O.O.D. holds response rallies after every shooting in the neighborhood in an attempt to gather neighbors and make parents and children feel safe again. On July 14, the organization gathered in response to a July 10 shooting on the beach that injured five people. File photo by Lloyd Mitchell

The response garnered support from other anti-violence organizations and some representatives from the Police Service Area 1, which serves Coney Island’s 60th Precinct.

“Everyone was very receptive to the message of us needing more programs and [needing to be] more hands-on with the adults in the community to keep these kids busy and active so that they’re not just outside doing nothing and being peer pressured into doing stuff that could possibly cause their freedom or their life,” Cadet said, who added that the response rallies also serve as an open door into the organization’s new Mermaid Avenue office, where resources are available year-round.

“Ever since then we’ve been having more people come to the office to receive services and try to provide aid and aid in anything else coming up that Operation H.O.O.D. is taking part in,” he said.

When there are no shootings to immediately respond to, the staff at Operation H.O.O.D. focuses on creating a safe space for minors that teaches them positive conflict resolution.

“The actual staff, we are violence interrupters, so there’s never an issue indoors. We do intervene with violence that we see is about to happen or that could happen and we try to intervene before it happens, but we’re a cure violence site,” said Cadet. “All we can do is respond and try to offer some time of healing for the moment.”

The group is still settling into its new facility, which opened on June 29. Their upgraded home-base features a play room with a plethora of activities, office space where youth can talk one-on-one with staff members, a weight room, and a computer area where youngsters can do school work, or fill out job applications.

Programmers also host game nights, movie presentations, and field trips to zoos and museums.

bullet on boardwalk ahead of operation h.o.o.d shooting
A bullet on the Coney Island boardwalk after a July 10 shooting that injured five people. Operation H.O.O.D and other cure violence organizations in south Brooklyn are working to curb violence by engaging youth and actively disrupting violent situations before they can escalate. File photo by Lloyd Mitchell

And, although Operation H.O.O.D.’s official business hours run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., staffers remain on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since violence can happen at any time.

“Of course if there’s an event coming or a kid walks in and needs someone to talk to, no one is rushing home,” Cadet said. “People are there servicing the community until the lights are out.”

Of course, Operation H.O.O.D. doesn’t work alone when it comes to fostering adequate resources for the People’s Playground. Its parent organization, the Jewish Community Council of Greater New York, also boasts an “Urban Neighborhood Services” center, which helps to connect local veterans, the formerly incarcerated, queer youth and those experiencing homelessness with mental health, domestic violence, and housing resources, among others.

The Council also runs a program called “SNUG” — “guns,” spelt backwards — which also seeks to reduce incidents of gun violence in Coney Island.

The program “seeks to reduce incidents of violence in Coney Island by strengthening community relationships, developing community-based structures for preventing conflict and working with local organizations to expand supportive services aimed at reducing violence,” according to the Council’s website.

According to statistics gathered by the NYPD, crime and violence in the city is up in most categories compared to the same time last year. Locally, the 60th Precinct, which includes Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Sea Gate has seen an uptick in most major crimes, including grand larceny, robbery, and rape. Shooting incidents in the 60th are up 83% from last year, with 11 incidents so far this year compared to 6 in July 2021.

The summer months are historically more violent on Coney Island’s beach and boardwalk — last year, reports of robbery, assault and grand larceny peaked from April 1 to Sept. 30, according to NYPD data, with 29 incidents reported in those six months.

To combat an apparent uptick in crime during the summer months, police precincts across Brooklyn and the city offer seasonal programs for kids, such as the Police Commissioner’s Day of Play — held last week on Victory Field in Queens.

Operation H.O.O.D. will continue to offer summer activities for Brooklyn residents including free fitness classes, tutoring and hosting job fairs. To find out more about their program and stay updated with their work visit their official instagram.

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