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Lark Cafe at 1007 Church Avenue in Caton Park is the latest to be hit in what appear to be a string of six related armed robberies targeting eateries and their customers south of Prospect Park. Thursday night, a masked gunman stole laptops from a group of writers holding a meeting at the cafe, reported The New York Times. The story said:

And now fear and concern are rippling through the normally quiet neighborhood…because the robbery at Lark was but the latest in an unusual pattern: Armed robbers in hooded sweatshirts and masks are hitting local businesses, not just for the cash in the registers but for patrons’ belongings, too — their wallets, their computers, their jewelry. Despite low robbery numbers citywide, and a drop in robberies in the [70th Precinct], the holdups — as well as a fatal home invasion on Rugby Road last month — have shaken the confidence of this community that is usually safe.

Other businesses to be hit in recent weeks include Ox Cart Tavern, Stratford Deli and Mimi’s Hummus. We’re not sure what the other two businesses are, but locals already held a meeting with local Council Member Mathieu Eugene and police from the 70th precinct even before Lark was hit, as Ditmas Park Corner reported at the time.

Meanwhile, the writers group is asking for donations on GoFundMe to replace their stolen laptops.

Business owners told the Times the robbers might be targeting gentrifiers. “Worst-case scenario,” said one, “the robberies are a pushback against the new people in the neighborhood.”

That might be, but it also could be the case that the robbers feel these sit-down eateries are easy targets. The robberies are certainly brazen. We can’t recall anything quite like this, even in the 1970s. Do you?

In Ditmas Park, Armed Robbers Prey on Businesses and Their Patrons [NY Times]
Photo by Lark Cafe

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Former District Leader Renee Collymore has organized an emergency town hall meeting with school principals, residents and business owners to discuss safety in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill after an incident last month when 20 or 30 “unsupervised students from local schools began a terrifying brawl outside a quiet coffee shop,” on Vanderbilt between Dekalb and Lafayette, according to a flyer we spotted in the neighborhood. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Council Member Laurie Cumbo are expected to attend.

Collymore witnessed the fight on October 9, and said police did not show up when called to break up an earlier fight on October 5, according to a story in DNAinfo. The meeting is set for Wednesday, November 19 from 6:30 to 8 pm at P.S. 20 at 225 Adelphi Street.

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We debated whether to ignore or call out The Post’s story on crime in Bed Stuy and Bushwick, which reads like something written by an Internet troll circa 2008. It even has the requisite gentrifier who says “More people like me are moving in and changing the neighborhood. So that’s comforting.” Newsflash: Violent crime is less than half what it was in the early ’90s, thanks to the efforts of people who have been living here all along, including community boards and Neighborhood Watch groups.

Bed Stuy does have a problem with young black men shooting each other, and it’s horrifying and needs to stop — as people in the community recognize all too well. That’s entirely different from saying white gentrifiers will be preyed on by black bogeymen, which is the implication of the story — but not supported by facts.

“There has also been an uptick in burglaries and muggings targeting the gentrifiers who move in,” said the story, but it did not give any evidence to support that. Crime is down across the board. In the 81st Precinct, for example, which covers part of Bed Stuy, violent crime to date this year is down in every category, including burglary and felonious assault, except rape.

We hope violent crime will continue to decrease, including rape, for the sake of everyone who lives here, not just the newcomers.

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Clean Society cleaners at 307 Grand Avenue has been shut down by court order. The spot has been a notorious hotbed of suspicious activity for years, as we wrote in April when the owner was shot (but not killed). At the time of the shooting, a tipster told us he saw DEA agents taking cash and drugs out of the storefront.

A week later, the police claimed the owner and a customer got into a “verbal altercation about clothes” and the shooting was not drug related, according to DNAinfo.

Now there are two signs on the door, as you can see in this photo a reader sent us today. One says “Closed by Court Order.” The other is a restraining order that specifically prohibits removing anything from the premises. It also says “The following activity is prohibited: use and occupancy.” And then it just says “marijuana.”

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Quite a day on Grand Avenue. As we reported this morning, there was a shooting at the Clean Society Cleaners at the corner of Grand and Clifton Place yesterday and DEA agents were seen carrying money and drugs out of that location. Now we have received a tip that there are ambulances outside 417 Grand, between Gates and Putnam, after a drug raid happened in which officers were injured. A neighbor wrote in to say that it was a “siege (with) SWAT teams and everything.” Cops have cleared the street.

Looks like law enforcement is stepping up its game after all!

Suspect Arrested in Last Month’s Grand Avenue Murder as Another Shooting Happens [Brownstoner]
Operation Grand Slam Nabs 11 in Clinton Hill [Brownstoner]
Turning up the Pressure on Grand and Putnam [Brownstoner]

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clifton-02It’s been a rough spring on Grand Avenue in Clinton Hill. In mid-March, longtime Grand Avenue resident Gilbert Kelly was shot dead on one of the stoops where he often spent the night between Gates and Putnam. The police wire yesterday announced the arrest of a suspect in the March shooting, an 18-year-old kid who’d already been arrested and released last year.

And yesterday, according to emails we received from neighbors, there were several shots fired at the Clean Society cleaners up the street at the corner of Clifton Place, a longtime hotbed of suspicious activity. From what we gather, the owner was shot several times but not killed, escaping to the community garden next door. One tipster said he saw DEA agents taking cash and drugs out of the storefront.

We’ve been living on this stretch of Grand Avenue for almost a decade and have been hearing the excuses from law enforcement that entire time about how hard it is to crack down on the drug trade that is obviously at the root of much of the violence in this area. Like most residents, we suspect, we feel this has become a pretty tired line when everyone in the neighborhood knows the problem spots and has witnessed plenty of illegal activity themselves.

In the end, we don’t believe it is a question of whether the drug trade and the culture of violence around it can be stopped. It’s a matter of resources and political will. Back in 2009, former D.A. Joe Hynes teamed up with the Brooklyn North division of NYPD to put Operation Grand Slam into effect. (This followed a similar blitz in 2006.) They ended up arresting a couple of dozen people and indicting 11 but were not able to keep the pressure on, and new bad guys simply stepped in and filled the void. We need sustained pressure to adequately address this situation and we need it now.

We would humbly suggest that now would be a great time for new D.A. Thompson to put his head together with the new captain of the 88th Precinct, Peter Fiorillo, and clean this area up once and for all. Platitudes at community meetings aren’t getting the job done.

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It’s with a heavy heart that we report the news that Gilbert Kelly, or just Kelly as most of us on the block between Gates and Putnam knew him, died from a gunshot to the chest last night shortly after 4 a.m.; he was killed on one of the mid-block stoops where he spent most nights for the past three decades. Kelly, who was profiled in this 2011 New York Times piece, was the self-appointed steward of the block. A 65-year-old homeless man who had struggled with drugs and had some brushes with the law, Kelly nonetheless had the implicit trust of everyone on the block. Many of us paid him a small monthly stipend to keep our stoops clean, make sure our recycling was sorted correctly and let us know if any suspicious characters had been lurking around our homes. Countless nights his crooning of Motown classics while he cleaned up the block was the last thing many of us heard before falling asleep. The block is on lock-down now and crawling with cops, but we haven’t heard any details. Was it one of the drug dealers from the corner or a tiff over something stupid that escalated out of control? Hopefully the police will figure it out. If you know anything, please give the 88th Precinct a call. RIP.
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At the Brownsville Recreation Center in Brownsville yesterday, Mayor de Blasio announced the city would drop its appeal of lawsuits over stop and frisk. The location of the announcement was significant because an eight-block area of Brownsville had the highest concentration of stop and frisks in the city, according to a 2010 New York Times report. Above, Brownsville’s main thoroughfare, Pitkin Avenue, in September 2012.

Police Commissioner Bratton was on hand and said in a prepared statement: “We will not break the law to enforce the law. That’s my solemn promise to every New Yorker, regardless of where they were born, where they live, or what they look like. Those values aren’t at odds with keeping New Yorkers safe — they are essential to long-term public safety.”

In a separate but related development, Bratton said the department will no longer send rookies out to blanket high crime areas such as Brownsville, Ocean Hill and Bushwick as part of Operation Impact, where they are liable to make mistakes. Instead, they will send more experienced officers.

In Brownsville, Mayor Announces Settlement of Stop and Frisk [NY Times]
Bratton Tells Chiefs He’ll Stop Sending Rookies to High-Crime Areas [NY Times]

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There was a shootout in Saratoga Park around 5:50 pm Wednesday, according to a message on the Stuyvesant Heights Parents Group message board. Here is what it said:

“I was just informed by my daughter’s teacher that there was shooting in Saratoga Park yesterday at approx. 5:50 pm — just before the after school program let out. Per the teacher, people were shooting after each other in a number of different directions. There were children in the park and adults were forced to pull them to the ground to protect them. She has suggested we don’t go to the park. Please protect your little people and yourself. Be vigilant, be at the ready and please report anything you see or hear any time it happens. I will be calling the precinct today to request police presence at the parks during peak times where we seem to have the most children (2 pm to 6 pm at Saratoga and the Blue Park at Stuyvesant and Fulton). I urge you to do the same.”

A followup message said a community affairs officer named Manderson said the shooting was a dispute between neighbors, and that the shooters were apprehended and the guns confiscated. (There were only two shooters, apparently.) The “park is safe and the shooting had nothing to do with the park,” the officer reportedly said. When we called community affairs for more information, we were referred to the department that handles media relations for the entire police department. A spokesman in that department said he had no information about the incident. Did anyone witness or hear about this?


Residents of Prospect Lefferts Gardens are not too concerned about some high-profile shootings that recently occurred just outside the neighborhood’s boundaries, according to The New York Times. The shootings, which took place outside 33 and 50 Lenox Road, were reported by news media as having been located in PLG. While this is true if you go by Google Maps — and, possibly, the NYPD — neighborhood residents and The New York Times agree the shootings took place just outside the PLG boundaries. Residents downplayed the significance of the shootings as something between gang members and a “freak occurrence,” and noted that incidents of violent crime are much more infrequent than in the past. “We never like to hear about a shooting, but it does not change our feeling about the neighborhood,” said George Garber, a retired tour operator. Still, though, the article does raise a question relevant not just to PLG but to many other areas of Brooklyn: What do you make of gang shootings in or close to areas where houses cost well over a million dollars?
Nearby Shootings Don’t Ruffle a Stately Brooklyn Neighborhood [NY Times]
Photo by nrv lowdown

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The use of controversial police tactic stop and frisk has decreased in the City after coming under increased scrutiny and a lawsuit, but spiked in select areas of Brooklyn, The New York Daily News reported. Specifically, stop and frisk was up 66 percent in Brownsville and 45 percent in East New York from 2011 to 2012. Its use in Bed Stuy increased 6 percent, 3 percent in Greenpoint and 2 percent in Bensonhurst, while it dropped precipitously in Williamsburg — by 44 percent. As has been the case for years, very few of those stops found actual law breaking: 89 percent of stops did not result in an arrest or summons, the Daily News reported. Those that did were mostly for marijuana; 12.6 percent of those stopped were carrying a gun or other weapon. Interpretations of the change in policing varied widely. “We are seeing the next chapter,” said John Jay College professor and former officer Eugene O’Donnell. “Good stop-and-frisk should be targeted. They’ve identified a pattern, a spike in crime, and they are throwing resources at it.” And, on the other side: “The Police Department continues, against any possible rational analysis of the data, to insist that the stop and frisk program is both necessary and effective, and to target young black and Latino New Yorkers, who are so innocent of any wrongdoing that they walk away without a summons,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. What do you think? Is stop and frisk effective and constitutional, or are the police just harassing law abiding citizens who happen to live in the poorest parts of Brooklyn?
Stop and Frisk Is up in Brooklyn [NY Daily News]
Photo by jag9889


The men and women of the Kings County court system are hitting prime-time TV. Media Bistro reported that CBS will run a six-part documentary series, titled “Brooklyn DA,” that follows the staff of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office inside the courtroom and out. The “48 Hours” team will produce the series. Here’s what Senior Executive Producer Susan Zirinsky said about the show in a press release: “No matter where you go, everyone has heard about Brooklyn. What makes this series so unique is getting into the lives and personalities of the individual D.A.s, led by Charles ‘Joe’ Hynes, who reflect the vibrancy and diversity of Brooklyn. We are allowed to watch their successes and their failures – it’s immediate, compelling and often heartbreaking.” The series begins on Tuesday, May 21 at 10 pm. Definitely interesting viewing for anyone who’s spent any time there serving jury duty!
CBS News Launching Primetime Doc Series “Brooklyn DA” [Media Bistro]
Photo by Brooklyn Based