One year after drastic safety measures were implemented to combat violence around the annual J'Ouvert celebrations, an NYPD official said that most security measures would largely remain the same, including the number of police on the outskirts of the celebration, the deployment of "violence interrupters," and the 6 a.m. start time.
Detective Roxanne Joseph outlined the overall plan for J'Ouvert safety measure at a roundtable discussion between community members, police representatives, and stakeholders at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Thursday. She noted that the number of checkpoints to enter into the J’Ouvert celebration will be increased, in order to avoid the frustrations around the long lines last year.
However, Detective Joseph and Borough President Eric Adams stressed that safety was the top priority, even if it meant that it would take longer for people to enter the J’Ouvert festivities. "We did hear concerns from people on how long it took to get inside the area and we don't want people to be unnecessarily overburdened," said Adams. "The goal...is that we don't want to be so rapid in our movement that we would dilute the safety of people inside."
In 2015, a lawyer in the Cuomo administration was fatally shot when he walked by a gang dispute before J'Ouvert, and the following year, two people were killed, leading the city to adopt the strict security measures and move the start time from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.
For months, there has also been a behind-the-scenes efforts to reach out to gang members to try and preemptively stem any violence this year. Pastor Gilford Monrose said that he has been working hand in hand with the NYPD and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez to talk to individual gang members and their parents. "We don't want to do any funerals after J'Ouvert," said Pastor Monrose.
Pastor Monrose also mentioned that, this evening, he is meeting with 40-50 high risk individuals as part of a check-in, where they will hear messages from the police and from people who have lost loved ones to gun violence. They will also be offered services, like GED assistance, or assistance if they are worried for their safety and want to move out of their neighborhood.
We work year-round with the @NYPDNews, @NYCMayorsOffice, @WIADCA, #JOuvert City International, violence interrupters, and community leaders to promote a safe and joyous celebration of Caribbean pride on Labor Day Weekend. Public safety is paramount, as is uplifting our culture. pic.twitter.com/7ekXB4nbBF
— Eric Adams (@BPEricAdams) August 16, 2018
Both BP Adams and Detective Joseph reiterated that public safety is a shared responsibility between the police and community members. "So if little Johnny is saying he’s leaving at 1 a.m. to go to J'Ouvert, he is not. J'Ouvert starts at 6....When your loved one is leaving to go to J'Ouvert, what's in that knapsack? What is he or she carrying? Weapons do not fall out of the sky," he said.
"We are asking our community to take responsibility of what's happening in our community," said Detective Joseph. "If you know your kid is involved in violence and they are maybe coming out to commit violence on J'Ouvert, let us know, call us, let somebody know….if you know something is gonna happen, talk to the cop next to you."
That might be a hard sell to members of the community who are skeptical of the NYPD. "There is tension within our community when there is a police [officer] who shoots an unarmed black person," said Pastor Monrose. "But at the same time, we need the police. ...we need the police to help us have a safe carnival weekend."