LES Shootings Prompt Call for Gun Buy Back Program

By Julie Shapiro on March 12, 2012 6:14pm 

LOWER EAST SIDE — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is calling on the city to hold a gun buy back program on the Lower East Side after several recent shootings there.

Silver believes the area would be safer if locals were able to exchange their unwanted guns for cash, no questions asked. In a recent letter he asked Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to hold such a program in the neighborhood soon.

"Far too many of my constituents live in fear of violence," Silver wrote in the March 7 letter, released Monday.

"We must take proactive steps to take guns out of the hands of criminals so that our streets are safer and the law-abiding members of our community feel empowered in their neighborhoods."

Recent violent clashes include a Feb. 27 shootout allegedly between 25-year-old Luis Martinez and two police officers at Baruch Houses and a 16-year-old girl who was shot in the elbow on Stanton Street Jan. 30, according to police.

The NYPD and the Manhattan District Attorney's office have sponsored successful gun buy backs in Harlem, including one last October that netted more than 120 revolvers and semi-automatics, each exchanged for a $200 bank card. But the city has not held a similar program on the Lower East Side for at least two years, officials said.

Silver said the city could hold the program in the community room at Rutgers Houses, a New York City Housing Authority building near the Manhattan Bridge, whose tenant association supports the idea.

The Manhattan DA's office is looking into the feasibility of doing a gun buy back on the Lower East Side, a spokeswoman said.

Other recent efforts to reduce violence in the neighborhood include an eight-week spring basketball program for teens at the Henry Street Settlement's Boys and Girls Republic, the DA's spokeswoman said.

The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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