BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Law enforcement officials and neighborhood leaders in Brooklyn are hoping to bring back the "old community" approach to protecting children and the elderly through a new safety initiative.
City Council District 36’s Safe Stop program aims to provide support for anyone feeling threatened in Bedford-Stuyvesant and northern Crown Heights, with local businesses, schools and community-based organizations asked to be the eyes and ears of the NYPD and make their spaces available as safe havens.
"It takes a village to raise a child," Councilman Robert Cornegy said during an informational meeting Monday night at Uncommon Charter High School.
"While we support NYPD and its efforts to keep us safe, they’ll probably tell you that the greatest degree of assurance that we'll be safe comes from the community. This collaboration has to happen."
Cornegy's office launched the district's first Safe Stop program in partnership with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, the Bed-Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District and the NYPD's 77th, 79th and 81st precincts.
The borough initially implemented the plan in 2011 in Sunset Park, Park Slope and Borough Park following the kidnapping and death of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky. Officials in Bedford-Stuyvesant are hoping to renew it to decrease crime and increase relationships between neighborhood residents.
Through Safe Stop, participating establishments will post a recognizable decal in their window. Owners and employees must pass a vetting process involving background checks and undergo training from the DA’s Office and NYPD to properly respond to a variety of situations, including harassment, abuse, bullying, or lost children.
"All kids know where a McDonald’s is," said Officer Tiffany Mitchell of the 81st Precinct. "One thing we want to do with this program is make our decal stand out so much that people know it, no matter where they are."
The mission is to provide assurance and comfort through visibility, Mitchell added. Aside from young students, targeted populations include seniors, the disabled and members of the LGBTQ community.
Participants in the program will serve as placeholders until law enforcement arrive, and while they can provide information such as a suspect's description, they are not expected to deter crime or engage with suspicious individuals.
Speakers, including NYPD community reps and community board leaders, said they sought to replicate a time when neighbors looked out for one another.
In addition to neighborhood safe havens, program supporters want to establish "safe passageways" in and around schools during dismissal times, with the help of block and tenant associations and faith-based organizations.
Dozens of businesses and schools have signed up for the initiative, officials said. While the program is still in its infancy, Safe Stop committee chairs are hoping to create an app to map safety locations, as well as meet with students for input and rebuild the youth’s relationship with the NYPD.