It’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.