Upsurge in youth violence

“Societal breakdown and moral decay are major contributing factors,” complained Canon Sylvester Taylor, a Caribbean priest and Rector of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Brooklyn’s East New York community.

“Killing fields,” was the way New York State Senator John Sampson, one of the most influential lawmakers in Albany, the state capital, described the picture.

The two public figures were reacting to the escalating gun violence in the City that has so unnerved New Yorkers that they are demanding quick police action.

But what also worries people in the City with links to Caribbean nations is the fact that some of the young perpetrators of the violence often end up in the island-nations when they are deported as criminal aliens. Their deportation in turn may be causing an upsurge in crime in the Caribbean.

“There is cause for concern about the impact on New York City and the Caribbean,” said New York State Senator Kevin Parker, who represents a largely West Indian area in Brooklyn. In addition to the problems in the City, he also had in mind the deportations of a large number of criminal aliens to the Caribbean.

Statistics tell a grim story. In the week of October 11-17, the number of gunshot victims across the City skyrocketed to 56, up from 22 in the same week last year, a jump of more than 150 percent. The next week, the tally of people shot also went up, reaching 22 as compared with 17 in the same period in 2010. So far this year, 23 murders were committed in the area patrolled by police officers in Brooklyn’s 73rd Precinct where the Norton killing occurred and 21 registered in the 75th Precinct, which covers the area in which Canon Taylor’s church is located. Thousands of West Indians live in those communities, the vast majority of them hard-working and law-abiding residents. It’s in that area too where a West Indian teenager lost her life several weeks ago in front of an apartment building when the driver of a car was shot and he lost control of his car which then careened into the girl, killing her on the spot.

“Our streets have become a killing field for gun crazy people who are not the least bit concerned for the safety of innocent bystanders likely to be caught in the murderous crossfire,” warned Sampson, the minority leader in the State’s upper chamber. That’s precisely what happened recently when Zurana Horton, a 34-year-old mother of 13 children was murdered by thugs shooting wildly from a rooftop on Pitkin Avenue in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Horton was killed as she tried to shield elementary and middle school children from the shooting spree which occurred less than two miles away from Canon Taylor’s church. An 18-year-old gang member, Andrew Lopez, who was charged with Horton’s killing, allegedly confessed, saying he didn’t intend to kill the woman but was shooting at members of a rival gang. Another youth, Jonathan Carrasquillo, 22, has also been charged in connection with the crime. “Our congregation at St. Barnabas hasn’t been touched directly by the violence. But it just goes to show that it can strike at any moment,” asserted Canon Taylor, who studied theology after coming to New York. “This needs attention from all segments of society. We are living in a ‘me me me’ type of society. Many of our young people tend to think that what they want they should have now without any sacrifice on their part. Many of the parents often work two and three jobs to give children whatever they want but they don’t impose the kind of discipline that’s necessary in the home. As a society, we need to bring people together to share experiences and find solutions to what’s happening.”

He thinks parents hold a key to the solution because much of what has gone wrong, he said, could be traced to the home.

“Far too many parents aren’t providing the moral and spiritual guidance their children need. Some don’t attend church services and therefore their children don’t either,” he charged.

Assemblyman Nick Perry, Assistant Majority Leader in the legislature, who represents a largely West Indian district of East Flatbush in Brooklyn, has also condemned the violence and the killings and he is trying to do exactly what Canon Taylor and others are demanding.

With the economy the way it is, there is a lot of economic hardship and frustration among the youth looking for jobs but can’t find them. These factors are contributing to the violence,” said Perry, a Jamaican-born lawmaker. “We in East Flatbush are trying to act as a community to reduce it but more needs to be done.” Like Assemblyman Perry, Senator Sampson, who has strong family ties to Guyana, puts much of the blame on the prevalence of guns in the City. “There are too many guns in our neighborhood.” Selmon Walters, St. Vincent’s Consul-General in the City, told a meeting of small business owners in Brooklyn who attended a workshop sponsored recently by the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Borough Hall that he was concerned about the criminal deportees returning to the Caribbean and contributing to the problems there. “Many of the young men are being sent to prison and on their release are being deported,” Walters said. “We are eseeing it across the Caribbean. Many of them don’t have family ties to the Caribbean and when they get back there, end up turning to a life of crime. Some of the parents must accept responsibility because they are failing to raise their children to avoid criminal behavior. The numbers are growing and it is cause for real concern.”

The Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, in that order, absorb most of the criminal deportees.

Bishop Cecil Riley and several Baptist and evangelical religious leaders have been in the forefront of the campaign to reduce the violence in Brooklyn.

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