In the eyes of New York City police leaders, a small number of teenagers and young men who are often familiar faces to police officers on the street are behind the rise in shootings in New York City over the last two years, reports the New York Times. They are also frequently the victims of gun violence. One target, Alexander Williams, tells of a “smothering police presence in his life that does not stop.” Twice, he said, he has been cited for jaywalking. He denied that he was a member of a gang or that he committed the crimes the police have alleged.
The strategy of targeting those believed to be behind the violence has intensified. Officers on the street, who are recording far fewer arrests and a still plummeting number of stops, are focusing on a few hundred people who are believed to fuel rounds of retaliatory shootings. At a City Council hearing, Police Commissioner William Bratton called it “quality policing, not quantity policing.” Police officials have put the city’s gang population at 10,000 to 15,000, mostly in small groups tied to certain streets or a housing development, often without much structure. Officials believe that only a small fraction, around 200 to 300, are repeatedly firing guns. To track the most hardened members, the police intelligence division compiled a book, known as the Intelligence Violence Assessment Reduction Plan, listing the top five most violent people or locations in the 15 most violent precincts.