Harlem Anti-Violence Groups Call for Tougher Gun Penalties After Shooting

By Jeff Mays on December 13, 2011 7:15am 

Harlem anti-violence advocates, including Jackie Rowe-Adams, co-founder of Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E, and Rev. Vernon Williams, president of the Harlem Clergy Community Leaders Coalition and Perfect Peace Ministries (front row) gathered near where a woman was shot in the abdomen Sun., Dec. 10, 2011.
Harlem anti-violence advocates, including Jackie Rowe-Adams, co-founder of Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E, and Rev. Vernon Williams, president of the Harlem Clergy Community Leaders Coalition and Perfect Peace Ministries (front row) gathered near where a woman was shot in the abdomen Sun., Dec. 10, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — Harlem anti-violence advocates called for stiffer penalties for gun possession following the shooting of a woman Sunday along a gentrifying stretch of Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

The woman, in her 40s, was struck in the abdomen by a bullet at West 116th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard about 5 p.m. Sunday, police said. She was transported to a nearby hospital.

According to sources, the shooting occurred because of a dispute between two rival youth crews. A group of young men allegedly saw another teen they suspected of robbing them and began chasing him up Frederick Douglass Boulevard, when he turned and fired two shots, sources said.

"We are demanding a 10-year mandatory gun sentence for the possession of a gun and one year for each bullet," said Rev. Vernon Williams, president of the Harlem Clergy Community Leaders Coalition and Perfect Peace Ministries.

"A mother was shot in the abdomen and almost killed. We can't have this going on during a Sunday afternoon in our community anymore," he said.

The shooting took place along a stretch of Frederick Douglass Boulevard that has seen new condos, co-ops, restaurants and bars in recent years, and has become one of the fastest-growing areas in Harlem.

A series of shootings in and around Morningside Park this summer, as well as a Nov. 21 shooting near P.S. 180 and the Police Athletic League building on Morningside Avenue, already has neighborhood residents on edge.

"I know it sounds harsh," said Jackie Rowe-Adams, co-founder of Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E., about the call for tougher penalties. "But enough is enough. We are dying. This gun violence needs to stop."

The calls come just weeks after Harlem groups applauded the comments of Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Edward McLaughlin, who urged Harlem residents to step up and stop the shootings and gang violence that are plaguing the neighborhood while sentencing the members of a youth gang to stiff sentences.

The youth crews have grown rapidly in Harlem in recent years. In 2007, there were only about 20 crews. Today, there are at least 40 spread across upper Manhattan, and gangs have recruited more than 1,000 members. Still, some think the estimates are too low.

McLaughlin said there were 244 shootings in Harlem between January 2010 and November 2011. Approximately 71 were gang-related, and more than half the victims were 19 years old or younger.

"Parents, step up," Rowe-Adams added.

Rev. Williams said police had already identified a suspect and urged the shooter to turn himself in.

"Don't make it worse than it already is," Williams said. "Let's turn these guns in and stop killing us."

Murray Weiss contributed reporting.



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