LONGWOOD — Bronx elected officials and clergy met Tuesday evening near the spot where two teenage girls were shot over the weekend to urge police and community members to prevent further violence during the summer.
“We’re going into the summer months when tempers flare,” said Assemblyman Marcos Crespo. “Take and arrest those individuals that are holding those guns and putting the lives of all of our community members at risk.”
The girls, ages 14 and 15, had been standing among a large crowd near the corner of Freeman St. and Lyman Place Sunday night when they were caught in gunfire and each shot once in the leg, according to police and elected officials.
They were taken to Lincoln Hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries where they remained as of Tuesday, according to the elected officials. Police said there were no arrests.
At the press conference Tuesday, the speakers blamed the availability of guns as well as the lack of jobs for youth or safe places for them to spend time when school is out for the early summer violence.
Besides appealing to parents to keep tabs on their children, many of the politicians and clergy called for a more visible police presence and even endorsed the controversial practice of stop and frisk, though with some caveats.
“If we don’t have a form of responsible stop and frisk, we’re going to be in a real sad situation,” said Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, before adding, “I don’t want police officers using it as a form of harassment.”
State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. said of the police tactic, which thousands of protestors denounced last month with a silent march through Manhattan, “It’s complicated.”
“The problem is when you take every youth in our community — it becomes racial,” Diaz said. “But on the other hand, it’s in our community where the crimes are and these are our people committing crimes.”
Rev. Joel Bauza, pastor of Calvary Church on E. 174th Street, called the street where the shooting occurred Sunday “a very hot block — with gangs, it’s a tough neighborhood right there.”
In April, a 15-year-old boy was fatally shot in the neck during a brawl that erupted after a basketball game just steps from the site of Sunday’s shooting.
Bauza said he doubted that simply assigning more cops to the neighborhood would end the fighting, instead suggesting that local clergy should take to the streets themselves.
“It’s outreach,” Bauza said. “Constantly being out there is the key to success.”
But Vernon Brown, a local resident, said little can be done to protect bystanders from random violence.
The teenage girls had simply happened into the wrong place at the wrong time when the bullets struck them, said Brown, 42, who did not witness the shooting.
“Every time they aim for a person they meant to hit,” said Brown, “they don’t never hit.”