A group of pastors, priests and ministers in East Flatbush are banding together to fight pervasive gang violence — with the power of prayer.
The 25 members of the multi-denominational 67th Precinct Clergy Council are taking their congregations to the streets in an attempt to deter young people from joining gangs — as well as to help community members cope with crimes after they are committed.
“At the end of the day, we are going to save young people’s lives,” said Gilford Monrose, president of the council and pastor of the Mt. Zion Church of God. “We’re not necessarily going to be preaching Jesus, but, ‘Brother, you need to survive the next day.’”
By praying with both the victims and the families of the accused, the ministers say they can act as arbitrators to help heal the lasting effects of violent crime in a precinct where assaults are up by 63 percent this year. According to Deputy Inspector Corey Pegues, commanding officer of the 67th Precinct, there have been 21 shootings this year — mainly from warring gangs.
“We’ve got to get this violence out of the community — by any means necessary,” said Pegues, referencing Malcolm X. “This is something no one else is doing. We’ve got to get out of la-la land.”
The neighborhood agrees.
“Every day my mother is crying and there’s nothing I can say to her,” said Samantha Hinds, whose brother Marlon was killed after being shot 17 times last month outside his East Flatbush home. “This needs to stop; every day I turn on the TV and I see more shootings.”
Cops say they have difficulty finding witnesses willing to finger perps — even though many recent shootings took place in broad daylight.
“Our residents are fearful of gang members and drug dealers — on the other hand, there is a mistrust of police officers,” said Elder Will Seaton of Brooklyn Community Church in Canarsie.
But Pegues says the preachers have a captive audience every weekend and they have the trust of the community — which makes them an obvious ally.
“People are afraid to expose themselves,” said Terrence Joseph, chair of the public safety committee of Community Board 17. “The clergy has a presence and the respect of everyone in the community. They could reach into people’s hearts and get them to reveal whatever it is they are going through and why.”
The clergy is still organizing and says they’re hoping to get the full council off the ground with regular patrols by June.