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As Summer Approaches, Anti-Violence Initiatives Gear Up

Captain Odelle Despot, with the 73rd Precinct.

By Mary Alice Miller
Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. The warm temperatures bring people to the streets and seasonal crime, including violent crime, which is more common during the summer months. Heat seems to increase aggression.
Local organizations are preparing for the annual surge in murders, rapes, and aggravated assaults by trying to preempt them.

At a recent 73rd Precinct Council Meeting, Captain Odelle Despot said, “Warm weather brings a dangerous trend of increased gun violence in our community. There are a lot of gangs throughout the community. This is a significant problem. You are walking to the store, and you can be an unintended target. Public safety is something we are going to take a hard look at.” Despot added, “When you see increased shots fired – fatal and non-fatal – we are going to continue to do the best job we can in the 73 to minimize as many incidents of gun violence as we can. We have specific zones set up to address the issue.”

Despot listed programs conducted by the NYPD that are designed to prevent crime. “The police department has many programs to get youth off the streets, especially during the summertime. We have the Explorer program that kids can join and come to the precinct. For those who are a bit older, we have the Cadet program. We also have the Auxiliary program. We also brought back the Blue Chip program, where you can play basketball, football… We have Girl Talk,” Despot said.

“To take youth off the streets they are best engaged in a program or a school, not hanging out in the streets.,” said Despot. “Unfortunately, for the past week or two since I have been here, many of the drivers of violence were between 13 and 17-18 years old. There are groups of 4-5 kids walking around the streets and they are causing a lot of problems for everyone in the community.”

A 73rd Precinct NYPD Community Affairs Officer said, “In a few weeks, the NYPD is partnering with BIVO (Brownsville In, Violence Out) to host a Summer Jam event with HBCUs coming to Brownsville a stage with youth dance, singing, bouncy houses, free haircuts for the kids and coupons for girls to get their hair braided at a salon on Rockaway Avenue. We are going to incorporate everybody in Brownsville. We will also have the Blue Chip program with basketball and volleyball.”


GodSquad was founded by Pastor Gil Monrose to help end senseless gun violence. It started as a liaison between police and the community in the 67th Precinct. GodSquad provides unsolved murder case follow-up with the NYPD, victim services, shooting responses, emergency room crisis response, and street engagement—clergy walks, Occupy the Corners, and Block Takeovers.

Pastor Monrose currently serves as Executive Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships in the Office of New York City Mayor Eric Adams and has replicated the GodSquad model across the city.

GodSquad has established Clergy for Safe Cities, a national coalition to support clergy-based gun violence prevention initiatives and implement a collective, comprehensive community initiative to decrease the involvement of young people in crime and gun violence in their city.
Clifton Aaron Hinton, founder of DEUCES, runs Squash the Beef program, an anti-violence initiative for young people.

“That is the equivalent of a rap battle, but not really a battle. We teach them how to use literary devices – simile, metaphor, hyperbole – to make rhymes. That way, they can learn to use words to resolve disagreements instead of violence,” said Hinton. “We also conduct Operation Safe Passage for younger kids in elementary and middle school if they need an escort to school. Some kids don’t go to school because they are being picked on or bullied, so they don’t make it to the school building.”

James Moultrie, Inc. is partnering with the Christian Vision Ministry to host an anti-violence event in August. “We are creating a task force to police our community,” said Moultrie. “We are working with young people to teach them not to pick up and gun and not to destroy their own community.”