"I'm glad to see that the Police Department is reacting to this spike in crime in the Rockaways," Sanders said in a phone interview.The spike Sanders was referring to began in early December, when 16-year-old Christopher Glenn was murdered outside his apartment building at 51-15 Alameda Ave. In mid-December, 18-year-old Cedric Smalls was shot and killed along Beach Channel Drive. Four days after Smalls was murdered, 25-year-old Laton Spurgeon was shot several times then run over outside 407 Fernside Pl. Aside from the violence, Sanders said there is also a "crisis of unemployment and despair" on the peninsula that fosters the gang activity. The councilman said there are few economic opportunities for Rockaway residents."Gangs proliferate in the absence of hope," Sanders said. "I believe that most people don't want to believe in this type of madness." The 101st Precinct, which covers Far Rockaway, could not be reached for comment on the crime initiative. Police plan to set up what they called chokepoints along Rockaway Boulevard and Beach Channel Drive in order to quell the violence perpetrated by rival gangs out of the Hammel Houses and the Ocean Bay Apartments, according to Newsday. The chokepoints would help cops notice gang members looking to enter a rival gang's housing development. A spokesman from the Police Department's public information arm said he "had no knowledge" of the chokepoint plan."Policing can't solve this problem by itself," Sanders said, noting that it must be joined by economic programs to give Rockaway residents options besides joining a gang.Sanders said he would do whatever it takes, even if it means meeting with the gangs on their turf, to alleviate the situation."This is a public challenge to the warring parties," he said, noting he would talk to them at a park or on the roof of a building at midnight if he has to. "I will be there."He said he would not carry a gun, other weapons or a tape recorder if the gangs agree to discuss the problem with him. And he would not take the information to the police.Meeting with the captains of the 101st and 100th precincts by the end of the week is also one of Sanders' priorities, he said, but the commanding officers have yet to get back to him.Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.
©2007 Community News Group
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