Police officers will hold open forums with young people so the youths may ask candid questions about topics ranging from stop-and-frisk to police-involved shootings in order to build a better community relationship, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced at a news conference Wednesday.
The Rap 2 Bridge the Gap initiative kicked off at August Martin High School, at 156-10 Baisley Blvd., following the news conference, and included more than 100 students in the forum.
“This is just the beginning,” said Kelly, who said the model will be applied to other schools across the city.
Gillian Smith, principal of August Martin, said it was important that young people know that their voice matters.
“We all carry the responsibility of making our schools and community safe,” she said. “Silent voices and bystander behavior must shift.”
Kelly said police and the community working together has already helped to reduce crime in the city, saying crime is down more than 80 percent from 20 years ago and that New York has the lowest ratio of gun-carrying teens than any other major U.S. city.
One of the creators of the initiative, Charles Fisher, a community activist who has managed professional performers, said the program was important for engaging young people and reducing crime in minority communities.
“We have some serious problems going on,” he said, pointing out that minority youths have a lower life expectancy and are behind in important factors such as education, wealth and employment.
He also voiced his support for the controversial police tactic of stop-and-frisk, saying it could be tweaked some but that crime would go up if it were abolished.
Fisher, along with his son Randy, who also attended the news conference, are well-known activists in the community. They head the Hip-Hop Summit Youth Council, which aims to improve the image of hip-hop culture and encourage the community to engage in social, political and economic betterment.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cn
©2013 Community News Group
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