What to do about the guns

By Kim M.

soapbox badgeMemorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer. It's when many of us first open our pools, go camping, or host a backyard BBQ. But with the warmer weather comes an increase in violence and crime, and many of us are concerned with the number of shootings we have already seen this spring.

This past Tuesday night in Troy a 15-year-old girl was shot in the leg while waiting for a bus. It was 7:40pm. 7:40pm! On River Street!

I am angry.

I am angry that a young bystander was injured.

I am angry that this kind of news does nothing but reinforce the negative image of my North Central neighborhood when I know so many good people live here.

I am angry at the near-sightedness of those who suggest moving. The problem doesn't go away just because you can ignore it.

I am angry that some think that this is just part of urban living, and change is hopeless.

And I am angry that I still don't know how to turn this anger into positive change and greater involvement from others in the community.

I do not have an issue with the police department or the police chief, nor is my issue with the PEACE initiative. Community policing as a department-wide policy feels right to me.

Chief Tedesco has attended a number of our neighborhood meetings and has introduced several officers assigned to our zone. Developing a strong relationship between the police department and the community is important, it takes time, and I believe the process has begun.

On Friday, I joined community leaders from North Lansingburgh Neighborhood Watch, North Central South Lansingburgh Neighborhood Association and other community leaders in a press conference to express our concerns about this violence. Councilman Mark McGrath had released a statement on Wednesday urging the mayor, the Police Department, and the City Council's Public Safety Committee to reinstate the Street Crimes Unit (a unit not without controversy).

I'm not sure that's the solution. I don't want to see thuggery or excessive force. That is counterproductive. But I do want to see something more aggressive done to prevent these shootings before another life is lost. Another gun buy-back isn't going to accomplish anything.

One thing I have noticed since getting more involved in the community is that residents in socio-economically disadvantaged areas like mine have this sense of hopelessness. Sometimes I even feel it too; mostly in those moments when I feel like I will never win the battle over my stoop.

"Not one of you live here," I think, "Get off my damn stoop!"

Whenever I have to ask teenagers to stop hanging out on my stoop, whenever I see plastic baggies on the ground in morning, I wonder if the next shooting could happen in front of my house.

I don't know how to solve this problem. All I know is the answer is not in doing nothing.

Kim loves Troy even more than you do.

Kim on the Soapbox:
+Earth Day: Cleaning up in Troy
+ Lessons from Marcia
+ Can you feel the love?
+ National Night Out
+ Children at Play
+ Hoosick Street: Future UFO landing site
+ Stop wining and do something about it
+ Good neighbors check in to make sure you haven't frozen to death


I agree that the problem is bad. I agree that we don't have an answer. I don't agree that people who choose to move away from it are near-sided. You're asking people to intentionally sacrifice their quality of life for a problem that 1) they didn't create 2) there are no solutions for.

Really? You believe that it can all be settled with peaceful and light conversation with the gang-bangers to convince them to move along from a 'prime drug-dealing' area, where they make money hand-over-fist? Here come in off my stoop for some tea, and we'll talk about it.

Aggressive force doesn't mean an officer has to stoop to thuggery or excessive force! Funny how this terminology comes from the political arena blocking the SCU's implementation. Do you think that the people doing these shootings or causing the problems care what kind of thuggery or force they are using? Nope, not one iota! If you want Troy to gain control of our city, then our response needs to be more aggressive. I agree that there is no need for excessive force, but doing nothing is worse in my opinion. SCU did more good than what the detractors are saying. The unit could be brought back with positive changes. Do you think NYC cleaned up Manhattan with by being softies without a backbone? No, then why should we?

You say you don't have an issue with the Police Chief or the department. I do wonder on your wording, so as not to anger the police chief or to 'lessen how you really feel so you don't tick off the powers that be'. Don't you see that his department-wide community policing is not working? Don't you see how his changes have not been for the good of the city you love so much? Not all of the officers are qualified to do community policing! Some of them talk as little as possible, are short with people and give little or no direction before getting back in their patrol car. There are reasons why there is a specific unit charged with community policing, it makes a mockery out of them to say just any officer can do the job, when they cannot.

Even a councilman has begged for the SCU, and got shot down. All for political reasonings, with the residents who actually live in Troy getting the losing end of the stick. Unbelieveable, here people are getting murdered in broad daylight, and people are worried about writing and saying things to be politically correct and to stay within political favor.

Funny how you phrased your words in a PC way, obviously to protect your standing within the political circle. You say that it takes time to develop a strong relationship with the police dept. and that you believe it has begun. Are you kidding me? It should have began years ago when things first started going to seed! Every year we hear the same phrase 'We are beginning to make headway and changes' over and over again! Things just keep getting worse, and worse and no amount of politician-esque wordage is going to change that.

I've never understood the people who invade my stoop. I mean, stoops are awesome, but what makes you think you can sit on mine? I don't come to your stoop and sit on it.

@Mickey -

I'm not sure why you think I want to invite gangbangers in for tea to talk out the problem. I said I wanted to see more aggressive action. I said the answer wasn't another gun buy-back. And believe me, I rolled my eyes at the suggestion that we need to "educate the public" so the "wrongfully questioned" can learn "how to act properly so the situation doesn’t escalate". PEOPLE ARE KILLING EACH OTHER OUT HERE.

The reason I said that I'm no longer sure that reinstating the SCU is the answer is because it wasn't until I was writing this post that I saw an article from earlier this month(http://troyrecord.com/articles/2012/05/06/news/doc4fa611ab5b86a146333834.txt) that *is* the the kind of action I want to see going on in the area.

I worded things in a PC way because I'm tired of the us vs. them mentality that is politics, especially Troy politics. Sometimes it's hilarious and would make a great soap opera. But I'd prefer to see both sides work together to move things forward instead of being against something just because it came from the other side.

And I honestly do support the community policing philosophy. I've thanked the Chief for introducing my community group to the officers who actually patrol our area. I also appreciated having a community officer to talk to about chronic issues. When a cop drives by and nods in recognition, or stops to ask how things are going, THAT is when I feel safest. And when one of those officers stopped by my house for the soul purpose of introducing me to his replacement (as he was being reassigned to a different zone), I saw that philosophy in action.

So yeah, I genuinely don't have an issue with the Dept. But I do hope they are out there doing more like the one I just mentioned. That's something I associated w/ the SCU, that I would consider "aggressive", and I want it to continue.

The KEY to the problem is in the title of this post. Take a good hard look at the crime stats, sometime. Without exception, every gun control law has resulted in the situation described. Criminals no longer fear the law abiding, the police, or much of anything else. And crime rates, particularly violent crime rates, go through the roof.

Doing nothing is not a solution. Handing the problem off to the police is a good way to make matters worse, because the city cannot hire enough police to put one on every stoop. Community action works - when the community has enough force to command respect from those who would live by preying on the law abiding.

So what to do about guns? Since the statistics clearly show that more guns mean less crime, and you want less crime, arm yourself.


@Stranger: That's a ludicrous proposition to say the least. You're saying that drug dealers are killing other drug dealers because there's a lack of armament on the streets? On the contrary, both the people doing the killing and the people getting killed tend to be the most armed of all citizens.

@ Kim-

My reference to inviting the gangbangers in for tea had more to do with the way I feel the approach to the problem has taken thus far, not you specifically. I feel that there is more concern about the liability potential than to really want to take the bull by the horns so to speak. If we treat the gangbangers with kid gloves and oh 'lets talk over tea' approach, it isn't gonna solve the problem. Getting aggressive will curb the problems.

As for the community officers, yes the community police team in place are wonderful, and I am not denying that. I am glad that you have the relationship with them that you have at the current time. But it is not like that for all of us, we don't know Officer Joe from Officer Bob, and usually won't until there is an incident. All we see are the ones driving by who rarely look over or stop to say hello, as in your case. If I don't know officer Joe well enough to give him a tip, or when he gets reassigned be expected to give Officer Bob a tip when they have not earned my trust? If all I see is them driving by, they don't stop by my house to introduce themselves.

When the Chief took over the dept. he made changes to the Community Policing Unit, and made every officer in Troy a Community Policeman. I believe his reference was 'Stop, Walk, and Talk; and thus far I have yet to see a single one of them do that. Some of them have the personality of a stonewall, and how can you build a relationship when you walk by and say hello, and they barely acknowledge you. That is a problem, and it sure does not fit the community policing model. That is why I said every officer is not qualified to have that distinction.

As for your reference to the PEACE unit article, that was nice to see and in some cases it is going to work. Yet, I don't see it stopping all of it and that is why I feel the SCU needs to be reinstated, even if only in a limited capacity. I don't see why the SCU and PEACE cannot work in conjunction with each other until the problems have subsided.

The gangs and dealers think the police dept are a joke, they think the people who live here (like you and I ) are a joke. They don't give a rat's patootie about your life or mine, or heck even their own.

This city has a big problem on our hands, a very dangerous one. As you said people are getting shot at almost every day. I do not have the relationship with the police which you do, and that is where I believe our disconnect comes from in terms of how we view the situation.

It also becomes an us vs. them situation when here we are begging for help to solve the situation, and we get shot down at every turn. Even you rolled your eyes at what is being dished out at us. You have a different view as a civic leader, imagine how we feel as regular people. The chief and most of the politicians don't live down here, they live in comfy "safe" places and that has gotta stop too!

Can you please share these statistics with us Stranger?

Stranger, with all due respect, you are spouting nonsense. The US is by far the most heavily-armed advanced economy in the world, and we have by far the highest rate of violent crime.

I don't know the answer to street crime, but neither do you. The answer is not more guns.

By the way, I am a gun owner. So I'm not anti-gun - far from it. I just don't think that arming people is a solution; it's part of the problem.

America has the highest violent crime rate? The first thing I suggested was to look at the violent crime rates. The United States 2010 homicide rate was 4.7 per 100,000, and indications are 2011 will come in at 4.5 to 4.6. Greater Europe has a combined rate of 8.6, Russia alone 15, most African counties over 30, Mexico and most Central American countries 30 and up Venezuela over 120 per 100,000. Any honest review of the crime stats would put the United States at 45th place for homicides and 56th place for violent crime. If gun control venues like Chicago, Baltimore, Washington, and New York City are removed the United States violent crime rates drop to among the lowest on earth. Look it up - the data is there for the taking for those who dare look at the facts.

@Mickey -

I think we basically agree, but when you said "I don't see why the SCU and PEACE cannot work in conjunction with each other until the problems have subsided", I immediately thought "and then what do we do with the SCU? Are they disbanded again?" I see a unit as a structure that could potentially limit flexibility. I also worry that creating a unit will turn into an argument on assignments w/ PBA and their bid process.

The impression I got from that article is that the Dept is already integrating some of tactics the SCU used. Though I do admit when I read that article I felt that using "PEACE officers" was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Which is probably why when Mark McGrath first called for SCU's reinstatement, I was all for it.

@Stranger: "The United States 2010 homicide rate was 4.7 per 100,000, [...] Greater Europe has a combined rate of 8.6"

Hahahah, you funny you. I'm gonna go ahead and "combine" North America with Central America too, because why the hell not, it's in "America". Oh gee now you are at 18 per 100,000.

So if data is there for the taking I'm going to pick the first non pro-gun link coming on Google, say the Wikipedia page on gun violence and check the table. USA indeed at 4.55 per 100,000 on overall homicide rate, congratulations for doing better than Columbia, Guatemala, and a few countries from old USSR. Then after USA, here comes the rest of the civilized world, including Canada (1.58), Western Europe and many of "Greater Europe", England (1.45), Germany (1.17), Spain, Danemark, etc (I don't see France, then again there is no column in that table for homicide by white flag). Hey, that's only 3 times the crime rate, pshh. If you sort that table by *firearm* homicide rate it's even worse for the USA, ranking #9 right after the likes of Columbia, Paraguay, Zimbabwe, Mexico, etc. I'm just picking data for the taking you know, why question it.

How do you even want people to take your gun trolling seriously when your blog header feature ridiculous hyperbolic "facts" like: "There are more than 22,407 restrictive gun laws in force. Of those, not even one has ever reduced crime". Not even one! Woah, that's some fact checking here. You post anonymously and you do not want anybody to know you are carrying a gun. Don't be a stranger, stranger.

I wanted to comment when I first saw this post, and there were no comments, but did not because I don't live in Troy so can't speak to the problem first hand. But I'm really troubled by the direction this conversation has taken.

I lived for many years in a tough neighborhood in San Francisco. When we got there we found needles in our driveway; by the time we left it was "gentrifying". We had people on our stoop. It upset my wife but didn't actually bother me that much. At least I could see what they were doing. And we *had* a stoop unlike some so it seemed ok to share it, especially since the only time we used it was going in and out of our house. Also, our neighbors were always uniformly respectful of us when we passed even though we realized there was some bad sh*t going down when we were not around.

I don't want to sound naive but want to point out there is such a thing as live and let live. You cannot solve hopelessness through guns or anger. You can be a good neighbor with an open heart and while you may not see immediate miracles, I guaranteed it will tilt the karmic wheel in your direction.

As a new arrival not living in Troy, I am constantly amazed by the grandeur of the city and how much is waiting to be reclaimed. Kudos to Kim and her neighbors for making the effort.

@Stranger: "If gun control venues like Chicago, Baltimore, Washington, and New York City are removed the United States violent crime rates drop to among the lowest on earth."

Yes, if we remove all poor urban areas where violent crime is a problem, we can magically reduce gun crimes to nothing! Your delusional logic is charming, if nonsensical.

Look, I grew up with guns in the house, started shooting as a young child, got my first rifle at 12 and my first shotgun at 13. We were the kind of family who spent an afternoon at the shooting range for entertainment. My father is a proud member of the NRA. One of my first jobs involved selling hunting rifles at a sporting goods store. I have nothing against the responsible ownership of guns, and I still think you're talking nonsense. The only solution to eliminating gun violence in poor urban areas is to remove the core factors contributing to the violence in the first place. Which is to say, the poverty, the hopelessness, the desperation, and the drugs.

In my opinion the most significant issue in gun violence is the of youth culture which has decided that Don't Snitch and Keep Your Mouth Shut is the best way to deal with these situations. There are many people in the area who know who shot that girl, and most other shootings too. They know who are the big dealers, they know where the neighborhood guns are hidden. But they will not tell anyone because they are cool and they will not snitch. They might die, their baby sister might die, but they are cool and won't snitch.
Figure out how to move the needle on this, and magic will happen. Unfortunately I have no idea how to move the needle...

Have you ever considered putting a locking gate on your stoop? My buddy did that in Albany and the stoop squatting problem was solved.

I lived in Brooklyn for four years, (relatively gentrified area) and have felt way more concerned about being hit by a stray bullet here in the Capital District (I am in Albany) than I ever felt in NYC. In the end, its a matter of proximity: block by block, inequality shifts dramatically in these small to mid-sized cities: urban poverty, accompanied by crime and drug violence is less hidden and unavoidable. When I read stories like this, I always think of The Wire, which I think everyone concerned with drug and gun violence should watch and rewatch. I commend the author for her anger and concern, but we live in such stratified, socio-economically distinct worlds up here , sometimes its like different planets. What I mean is that for one to suggest reducing crime and violence with offering no other way of surviving or being or existing in one's small world mistakes the symptom for the disease, to use a tired metaphor. And yes, a deadly, painful symptom. I have no solutions, but I do think we can expect more of this, or other expressions of a desperate population, as our economy tanks and it becomes harder for folks formerly in stable household to get by. See todays NYTimes article:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/business/economy/extended-federal-unemployment-benefits-begin-to-wind-down.html As one commenter remarks, from the UK, if there are no jobs and the government takes away benefits, he would expect people to turn to crime. As for the stoop, isn't that a way for people to assert their right to a place, a block, a neighborhood, perhaps less to those inside than to others on the street.

Of interest:
On June 14 at Page Hall,
Join us for a community screening of The acclaimed documentary THE INTERRUPTERS that tells the story of three violence interrupters in Chicago who try to protect their communities from the violence they once participated in.

We will be joined by special guest, AMEENA MATTHEWS, a Violence Interrupter with CeaseFire Chicago who is featured in
the film.

From Steve James, director of “Hoop Dreams,” and Alex Kotlowitz, author of “There Are No Children Here.”
Thursday, June 14, 2012 | 5:30-9:00 PM
Page Hall Auditorium | UAlbany Downtown Campus
135 Western Avenue Albany, NY 12222

> 5:30-6:00 P.M. Reception
> 6:00-8:15 P.M. The Interrupters
> 8:15-9:00 P.M. Discussion
> Support Albany SNUG / CeaseFire
> Suggested Donation: $10.00
> RSVP TO: http://communityscreening.eventbrite.com
> Questions? Please call: (518)591-8795

Perhaps the Federal, State, and Local governments should stop encouraging procreation amongst the uneducated and welfare-dependent? Regardless of race or ethnicity, this kind of anti-social behavior seems to thrive among young people who have no sense of shame and absolutely no sense of community. The father is likely absent, and the mother is likely overwhelmed or otherwise occupied. These kids are not "members" of society, in any sense that most readers of this website could ever identify with. How could any child be "raised right" in such a situation?

This is not a gun issue, or even a policing issue. Many people have guns, and they do not go around shooting people. This is a social welfare issue. The welfare state has failed. Perhaps we should offer every welfare-dependent 11-year-old girl in America a relatively-attractive sum of money to NOT have children? Put that money into an interest-bearing account. Then separate the schoolgirls from the schoolboys, and send them all to rural, isolated, "sleep away" schools? How could this suggestion be any more offensive than the "life" that most generationally-poor people live in this country?

Discipline the kids in the "old school", challenge their intellects, and make them earn respect in a milieu (particularly the males) that does not elevate pack-mentality barbarism. These children want to be challenged (starting at a young age). They want "someone" to give a damn about them, but this is usually a lost cause by age 16. The upper-middle-class "liberal" paradigm that has controlled public schooling and public policy in this country since the 1960s has failed poor children in miserable fashion. School administrators who live off of this ineffectual system should be ashamed of themselves.

We spend so much money on "schooling" (babysitting), police, fire, prisons, welfare, WIC, Section 8, etc., that I suspect that the upfront costs of such a social upheaval would pay off within about 10 years. Just my opinion. The current situation is an abject failure, despite the offensive sums of money that have been poured into public schools over the last 40 years.

If something isn't done soon, Troy, New York, like the rest of America, is only going to sink deeper over the next 25 years. I live here (in Troy), and am fairly "tolerant". However, the literal (gang) writing on the walls is not doing anything to encourage me to stay here long-term. Oh, yes, I have a job, and I pay (your kid's teacher's salary). Wake up.

Tonight's shooting on 10th St was about a football field's length away from my house. And evvvvvvveryone seems to know something about it ... at least when talking amongst themselves. Unbelievable. They're all young, many have kids, some of which were outside when it happened. But nobody wants to share the info they have w/ the cops.

THAT'S the mentality we need to change right now. I agree that there are a lot of societal changes that need to be made to address the underlying causes. But people are getting shot NOW. And we need to address that and stop this retaliation nonsense, STAT.

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