Bed-Stuy Eyes Block Watch to Stop Violence

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Nearly a week after the shooting of 11-year-old Tayloni Mazyck in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the community gathered at Boys and Girls High School on Fulton Street for Discover Bed-Stuy, a resource and safety expo organized by the Bedford-Stuyvesant Youth, Education and Safety Task Force.

“Discover Bed-Stuy is developing our community to a higher level of consciousness,” said Councilman Al Vann (D-Brooklyn) outside the high school on Thursday.

Funded by City Council and Vann’s office through a grant to the Bridge Street Development Corporation, the seventh annual Discover Bed-Stuy brought residents together with local resources such as Teen Challenge and NYPD Explorers.

“The purpose is to try and link services with the community,” said Brenda Fryson, the main organizer of Discover Bed-Stuy. “Often the process of accessing resources can become so complex that people just give up.”

But at an event like this, people are able to speak face-to-face with providers, which Fryson said is good, especially for more sensitive and personal issues such as domestic violence. The aim for the event this year, she said, was to bring the broadest array of services possible to the community. She estimated that 500 to 600 people attended Thursday evening.

Henry Butler, chair of Community Board 3 in Bedford-Stuyvesant said that Discover Bed-Stuy helps demonstrate to people that the community is not just the violence that it sees on TV. “It gives people the opportunity to see that there are other resources within the community that they can engage in.”

The difficulty, Butler said, lies in attracting the few people who are the cause of the violence to come to events and see that there are other options to choose from in their neighborhood besides crime.

Vann said that events such as Discover Bed-Stuy can help to prevent violence and encourages in-district spending, but that the long-term way to head off crimes like last week’s shooting is through block and tenant-association watch programs.

Community Affairs Officer William Jenkins and his partner William Manderson from the 81st Precinct taught a blockwatch training Thursday night.

During the training participants were instructed on what contributes to a successful block watch, including the basics on home and auto security. A retired detective from the 79th Precinct, Tony Saunders, now director of public safety and environmental control for the Bed-Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District, also spoke to the group about the importance of installing surveillance cameras whenever possible on private property. Saunders said that he has cameras all along Fulton Street, and that they are very helpful and that the police precinct often uses footage from his cameras when investigating crimes.

“It’s important to know what goes on on our block when we’re not there,” Saunders said.

The skycam that caught an image of Mazyck’s shooter, leading to an arrest, was put there because the area has been a hotbed of activity, said Jenkins. But the more businesses and homes that have cameras, and the more residents that are able to come together and decide that they are important, the better.