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NYPD grappling with skyrocketing teen violence despite plan to stop shootings near schools

New York Post logo: MainLogo New York Post 3/28/2023 Tina Moore, Steve Janoski

The NYPD implemented a plan at the start of the year to try to stem the Big Apple’s soaring number of teen shootings, but nearly three months later, the bloodshed continues —  including near city schools.

Just weeks ago, two teenage boys were separately shot and wounded blocks from their high schools in Upper Manhattan — areas the NYPD has said it would be flooding with cops in its effort to stop the violence.

Experts and advocates suggested more needs to be done, including increasing the number of school safety officers or resurrecting more aggressive plain-clothes anti-crime units that sought to get guns off the streets.

In January, after a spate of teen shootings, the NYPD launched a new safety initiative that included stationing members of New York’s Finest in areas frequented by youths, including near schools.

“We put more cops in and around the schools, the corridors, the transit hubs, the Chipotles, the McDonald’s of the world,” NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell told The Post last month. “So we’ve kind of made a ring around schools and are just basically trying to give them safe passage.”

© Provided by New York Post A shooting victim getting removed from MLK High School in Manhattan on March 14, 2023.Robert Miller

The department also tried to establish connections with school officials and closely track youth events with a history of trouble, Chell said.

Still, in the first two months of 2023, 21 juveniles were shot, according to NYPD data obtained by The Post.

That compares to 17 who were shot during the first two months of 2022, and just 10 during the same period in 2021.

© Provided by New York Post Police responding to the shooting at MLK High School.Robert Miller

Those numbers track with annual trends showing city kids are increasingly at risk of getting shot: 149 kids were wounded by gunfire in 2022, compared to 138 in 2021 and 125 in 2020.

That’s considerably more than New York’s pre-pandemic totals, which recorded only 63 juveniles shot in 2018 and 64 in 2019.

And it’s happened despite a fall in overall shootings across the city.

Some of the shootings have been shockingly brazen, leaving victims bleeding and wounded on bustling street corners or outside packed cafes.

© Provided by New York Post Blood on the sidewalk at the scene of a shooting at Harlem Renaissance High School on March 14, 2023.James Messerschmidt for NY Post

Such was the case on March 14, when a 16-year-old and 17-year-old were shot within hours of each other outside schools on the Upper West Side and in East Harlem in what cops think was a gang-related dispute.

Cops busted a 19-year-old man who they say shot the 17-year-old. But there have been no further arrests.

The NYPD did not respond to a request for information about what, if anything, it will change in the wake of all the gun violence.

But a spokesperson for the department pointed out that eight juveniles were shot in February, down from 13 in January.

The data for March was not yet available.

But cops have said in the past that they’re trying.

© Provided by New York Post NYPD entering Harlem Renaissance High School after the shooting.James Messerschmidt for NY Post

The NYPD has sent police to cover the schools, including four Youth Coordination Officers per precinct that are tasked with focusing on students.

That equals about 300 additional cops citywide.

The department concentrates its resources on about 75 to 80 schools with the highest rates of violence, according to police data.

Chell also said precinct commanders have weekly video calls with building principals to make sure cops know sooner about beefs that could turn into shootings later.

And an unspecified number of intel officers work in the buildings to gain the kids’ trust, which Chell said helps spot potential problems more quickly.

He primarily blamed New York’s “Raise the Age” law for the bloodshed. The 2017 act requires 16- and 17-year-olds charged with non-violent felonies be tried as juveniles, and gives judges the authority to send violent crime cases to family court.

© Provided by New York Post The NYPD previously announced plans to prevent violence at schools by stationing more officers nearby.Robert Miller

“More young kids are getting shot,” Chell said. “More young kids are shooters. And what’s the reason? The consequences are minimal for some of the kids that need to be taken off the street.” 

Mona Davids, a parent advocate and the head of the NYC School Safety Coalition, said juvenile violence won’t stop until the city dedicates more cops to the schools and the state changes its lax bail reform laws.

see also © Provided by New York Post NYC school safety staff plummets 25% even as violence, shootings skyrocket

“That’s why these kids are wilding out, because there are no consequences,” she said, referencing Raise the Age. “They know that because the gang leaders and the other gang members tell them this – they know the current laws protect the criminals.”

Then there’s the school safety agents, who graduate from the police academy but have only limited powers of arrest.

Their numbers have dwindled from about 5,000 a year ago to about 3,500 now, union officials said.

One veteran safety agent told The Post that the safety division has been decimated by personnel cuts, which has allowed things to get “completely out of control.”

“This problem could be fixed by two things: Getting more school safety agents and paying them what they’re worth,” the 20-year veteran said.

Michael Alcazar, a retired NYPD detective and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, said it might be time to bring back plainclothes anti-crime units, which were disbanded in 2020 because police brass said its officers were responsible for a disproportionate amount of complaints and shootings.

Mayor Eric Adams brought back the undercover teams last January. But they have to wear body cameras and clothing that marks them as cops.

Alcazar said this doesn’t cut it.

“They’re going to have to bring back plainclothes police officers – I think it’s an invaluable tool when done correctly,” Alcazar said. “Having essentially uniformed police officers playing the role of anti-crime is not as effective. The bad guys, the criminals, know what to look for.”

While the way forward remains unclear, one thing is seems certain: The youth violence won’t just stop on its own.

“There’s a gang war in New York City, and the kids have taken over the streets,” said Charlie Crotto, deputy director of law enforcement for Teamsters Local 237, the school safety agents’ union.

“They’re winning the streets. We’re losing.”


New York Post

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