Two fatal shootings in the Bronx

While authorities investigated two shootings in the Bronx this weekend that left two young people dead in unrelated incidents, some residents were reluctant to accept the presence of more police in the area.

John Vázquez

In Mount Eden, John Vázquez, 20, was shot near 1520 Sedgwick Avenue early Saturday morning. By yesterday, there was a makeshift memorial in the entrance of the building. Meanwhile, in Soundview, Anna Ramlochan, 22, was killed by a bullet wound at 1744 Watson Avenue, where, according to neighbors, she was attending a party. Police tape cordoned off the area of the incident, which took place in the public housing unit named after Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Besides Ramlochan, an 18-year-old African-American man was wounded and in stable condition in Jacobi Medical Center.

“There was a small party. I didn’t hear the shots because I had the TV volume up too loud,” said a neighbor. “Later, I heard the shots and looked out and the police were there. It’s madness,” said the man, who preferred to speak anonymously.

According to neighbors – many of whom did not wish to use their names due to fear of retaliation – the majority of the invited guests were young people. Many of the neighbors were sure that there had been gang problems and wanted to feel safer in the vicinity. “There is nothing safe here,” said Rafael Rodriguez, 56, a neighbor.

Diane Bosch, a 41 year-old Puerto Rican who lives four blocks away from the public housing project, said, “They need to get rid of street gangs.”

Nonetheless, many agreed that there was a sufficient police presence patrolling the area around the public housing and that calling for more police wasn’t the solution because it would result in more searches in the streets. “They already harass us too much,” said a young Hispanic man who didn’t wish to give his name, during an interview in the public housing unit where Ramlochan died.

A Mexican mother, who did not wish to be identified said, “There are a lot of police. You can see them everywhere.” When asked if that made her feel that her children were safer, she responded with a resounding “No.”

Other young people who had been questioned by police seeking clues about what had happened said they felt frightened when they went out into the street. They would not give their names but said they felt themselves under the watch of uniformed cops.

In response to the growing street violence in the Bronx and the lack of confidence in the police, the office of the borough president, Rubén Díaz Jr., has launched an initiative called “Peace in Our Streets,” which is designed to encourage residents to report illegal weapons to the police.

Through this initiative, which began in September 2010, the office visits neighborhoods and talks with the residents. “The people don’t trust the police, and it’s unfortunate in a lot of ways,” said John DeSio, the communications director for the borough president. “They are open to speak with us as neighbors,” he said.

Representatives of the initiative visited Soundview last weekend. As of Sept. 11, there had been 10 murders reported in the 43rd Precinct, compared to eight during the same period of 2010, an increase of 25%.

In Mount Eden, where Vázquez was killed, there were 14 murders recorded as of Sept. 11, compared to nine during that span in 2010, an increase of almost 56%. According to police, until yesterday afternoon, they had no suspects in custody in connection with the two shootings.

Those who have any information about these incidents or wish to report an illegal firearm, are asked to call the toll-free line of the police at 1-800-577-TIPS.

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