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Confronting Gun Crimes on the Lower East Side

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Captain Peter Venice.

The NYPD’s monthly “community council meetings” are in all honestly not generally the most newsworthy events in the world.  But last week’s 7th Precinct gathering was actually pretty informative, although the most relevant details about crime in the neighborhood were made apparent in a fairly roundabout way.

The news came by way of the regular “police officer of the month awards,” given by Captain Peter Venice, the precinct’s commanding officer,  to cops who have gone “above and beyond the call of duty.”  The awards were presented to police officers Jeffrey Millenbach, Steven Stiller, Paul Pedersen, Brian Little and Sergeant Stephen Spataro.  In one way or another, they were all involved in arrests for gun-related charges in recent weeks.

The intersection of Pitt and Rivington streets; October 18.

Captain Venice went on to detail three separate episodes, including an October 18th incident we noted briefly last month.  According to Venice, a suspect opened fire on four men who narrowly missed being shot. They ducked behind a car and were later able to give police a description of the alleged shooter. Police made an arrest and found the gun in the wheel-barrel of a nearby car.

The captain also described the arrest of a suspect and the seizure of a .38 caliber gun near the LaGuardia Houses October 27th. He said the arrest seems to have put a stop to a ongoing violent feud between rival groups at LaGuardia and another public housing project “north of Houston Street.” Finally, Venice told residents, officers spotted a man (who was well known to them) carrying a 9 mm gun. They followed him above Houston Street (the 9th Precinct’s jurisdiction) and made an arrest on East 4th Street.

While he’s concerned about the situation, Venice said it’s a good sign that his officers have been able to “take guns off the street.” Residents expressed uneasiness about the situation. People who live at Masaryk Towers requested increased police patrols. One woman asked what more could be done to deal with the situation.

Zach Bommer, representing Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, said his boss is working with the District Attorney to possibly set up a gun buy-back program on the Lower East Side.  Last week, we followed up with Silver’s office, which released the following statement:

“I have heard from constituents who are concerned about gun violence and the various incidents that have occurred in our community. Therefore, I have suggested initiating a gun buy-back program and I have contacted the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office about the possibility of bringing one to the Lower East Side. We must explore every avenue in our effort to stop the scourge of gun violence in our community.”

Venice said he’s committed to confronting the problem, but he also suggested the issue should be kept in perspective. Overall, he said, crime is down (month-to-month) on the Lower East Side by 16%. You can see the latest 7th Precinct crime stats below:


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