GodSquad violence interrupters celebrate 11 years of crime reduction

Gov. Kathy Hochul with City Councilmember Farah Louis at the GodSquad event. Photo by Morgan C. Mullings

The 67th Precinct Clergy Council, also known as the GodSquad, honored city and state players in ending gun violence in Brooklyn on Tuesday, Sept. 14.  The officers, clergy, and students involved have seen gun violence first hand, and want to continue fighting for fewer incidents. 

“Nobody talks about the intense pain that ripples through families and communities,” said 14-year-old Christopher Underwood, an honoree who lost his sibling to gun violence. “I choose to reclaim our pain and turn it into action.”  

The GodSquad offers a youth program called Flatbush Leadership Academy, which targets the root causes of violence for students and provides training to prevent it, including job readiness and financial literacy. 

The 67th precinct covers East Flatbush, where the event was held, and where nearly 86% of the population identifies as Black

“A Black boy born this evening, has a greater chance of dying from gun violence than any other child born in the same nursery,” said Attorney General Letitia James. 

She aligned with the general sentiment of the night, that gun violence is preventable from two aspects; limiting gun sales from other states, and getting guns off the streets after they’re sold. Governor Kathy Hochul showed up in support of the GodSquad, unveiling their new commemorative vehicle at the start of the event.

Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, who represents Flatbush, spoke at the event about her efforts to write legislation that restricts the sale of guns. “We’ve worked tirelessly to make sure that we put more restrictions on getting access to guns, we have voted on gun safety laws,” she said. 

During this session, Assembly Bill A6762B was signed by the governor, making it easier to file lawsuits against gun manufacturers who knowingly sell to criminal dealers. Another assembly bill that aimed to limit the sale of ghost guns, or hard-to-track guns with unregistered parts, was sent back to the Senate in June. 

Meanwhile, shootings are down across the city. From July to August 2021, there was a 30% decrease in shootings, according to recent NYPD data. 

In the 67th precinct, where GodSquad clergy members are trying to lower their numbers, there have been 40 shooting incidents this year to date, which is a bit lower than this time in 2020. On the contrary, felony assault and misdemeanor assaults are on the rise.

The week of the GodSquad event, there were two shooting incidents with a total of two victims. 

“We’ve seen a dramatic reduction in gun violence in Brooklyn this year,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. 

Gonzalez said that the county is down 25% in violent crimes, “and no other county in this city is doing that, and that’s because we have GodSquad.”

Though honorees like Mayor Bill de Blasio and mayoral candidate Eric Adams did not attend, they were also congratulated for their efforts to improve public safety.