NEW YORK CITY — "National Night Out," a series of events Tuesday night aimed at strengthening ties between law enforcement and local communities, brought a festive block party atmosphere in many neighborhoods, despite this summer's spate of deadly shootings across the city.
The July 29 Brownsville drive-by shooting that injured two-year-old Ariyanna Prince may have been on the minds of many at the gathering held at Betsy Head Memorial Playground at Thomas S. Boyland Street between Blake Avenue and Dumont Avenue, but the event was anything but dour. Kids enjoyed face painting and a rock-climbing wall; many residents mingled with officers.
The event, in its 29th year, provided a place for New Yorkers to talk with police officers about what's going on in their neighborhoods. In Brownsville's 73rd Precinct, for instance, crime has increased by 4.5 percent since last year, according to Compstat data.
"Stop the bullying. Stop the violence," said Tayahna Walcott, 10, who performed at the Brownsville event with her brother Kryon, 9.
"Because it's getting out of control," her brother added.
Glenn Moises, who works for an organization called Neon Brownsville, which helps provide services for people on parole, called the event "wonderful," saying "It's a way to bring the community together, to understand we're all in it together."
The event came just on the heels after NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly announced a dramatic reduction in the number of people who have been stopped and frisked throughout the city.
But residents in many neighborhoods were still cautious about police presence in their communities.
At the event for Harlem's 32nd Precinct at West 135th Street between Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglass boulevards where Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared with Kelly and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr., among others, there were also community and youth groups here handing out flyers, trying to get young people involved in groups and off streets.
"When the police are there [in our community] it's okay," said Mahlaney Wilson, 17, "but we don't want police on every block. It feels like we're being watched."
In the 32nd Precinct, crime has dipped nearly 6.2 percent compared to last year at this time, according to Compstat.
But with such incidents as the the July 22 Bronx shootout that killed four-year-old Lloyd Morgan, residents remained concerned.
"Like you, we all want to make sure [that children] grow up safe and sound and that's why we're working hard to ensure they have good schools, safe streets and bright futures," Bloomberg said, "and that's what this night against violence is all about."
Commissioner Kelly added, "We have to work hard to protect those who are the most vulnerable in our community."