Monday, June 01, 2009

Exclusive vigilantism

In response to the recent wildings of a pack of adolescents, someone has anonymously created a website calling for action designed, it appears, to arrest any and all involved. The website address:

I'm all for crime prevention and community participation, but note the omission of "d" from the list of avenues. The flyer they propose to post all over the neighborhood concludes with "We will NOT tolerate street crime in OUR neighborhood."

I guess I can understand and accept the preference for anonymity, but the omission of "d" from the e-mail address, "abcneighbors" raises implications that don't sit well with me. The emphasis in the poster on "OUR" neighborhood underlines that concern. Couldn't they find anyone from Avenue D to work with them, and if not, why not?

There are many ways to handle adolescent group wilding and I'd like to be confident that the vigilante group's means of choosing are not a) based on an exclusion and b) an insult to part of OUR community. There is enough divisiveness here; no need for a crime prevention program to add to it.

It seems to me that the first step would be to hold an open, local meeting which residents of all the avenues of Loisaida could attend. That could be the beginning of meaningful community action and dialogue.


This comment has been removed by the author.

As I posted on Bowery Boogie:

I named the blog "ABC Neighbors" because, when talking about the alphabet, one usually says "ABC," not "ABCD." You know, like, "Jamal can say his ABCs." Or, "Suzy knows her ABCs and 123s." Not because I wanted to exclude Avenue D.

I'm curious why you would automatically jump to that conclusion. My street -- 7th between C and D -- is ethnically and racially diverse.

To rectify the situation, I've added a phrase defining Alphabet City as everything between Avenue A and Avenue D.

As far as an "open meeting," I'm not interested in things like that. If you are, then you should hold such a meeting. In my experience, "open meetings" become nothing but excercises where everyone is "heard" but nothing gets done.

I am not calling for a vigilante group. I am a private citizen who wishes to address this problem of violence (which has plagued some of our most vulnerable people, the homeless) by making sure the eyes and ears of the community are open. You are free to participate, or to not. You are free to hold your community meetings, or to not. But please don't insinuate your fellow neighbors are racist or "exclusionary."


We also have added the following paragraph.

Important note: This is not a vigilante group. A fellow neighborhood blogger erroneously suggested our aim was to exclude some residents of our neighborhood. Our goal is exactly the opposite. It's only by the entire neighborhood -- all races, ethnicities, ages, genders, sexual orientations and people of different income levels -- working together that we'll be able to take a stand against violence.

rob said...

I'm sure your reasons were exactly as you say they are, but they don't remove the implications, especially when word has already gone around -- it's mentioned on NMNL -- that the culprits come from a non white housing complex. My point is that vigilantism can be dangerous if not done carefully. Openness in the process ensures that such mistakes are not made. If you'd been talking with someone from Avenue D, D wouldn't have been left out. Reasoning that "abc" sounds catchy, given the possible implications, doesn't sound too good.

Also, your poster implies an effort to arrest and jail all of those involved. It does not seem to me that that is the best, the only or the necessary solution. Word has it that there is a "ringleader" egging on the rest. There may be other ways to deal with a group of stupid kids egged on to vicious violence. It's a stupid age, but it passes, and when it passes, one hopes there's something left for the future.

I am happy you added an explanation, but I dont' see it on the website. I would be happier if your response were to change the e-mail address and the url, instead of defending what seems to me clearly an insult, howbeit unintentional.

(Btw, I made a point of using that word "unintentionally" when I tried to post on your blog, but for reasons I don't understand, I was unable to post there.)

rob said...

...found the mention of Avenue D you added to the website. Thanks for responding to my concerns.

Anonymous said...

ABC = alphabet city

chill out!

rob said...

Alpha-Bet-City=ABC was the first thing that occurred to me too, but it omits D, and in the context of the demographic and economic disparities among the avenues and the witnessed demographics of the wilders, that would be reason enough to drop it as a url and displayed address on the poster. Community actions can have long-term serious consequences. Take them lightly if you don't mind the entire community paying for it later.

Anonymous said...

rob - what's your point? For the life of me, I don't see it. A concerned neighbor takes a positive, pro-active, non-violent and sensible approach to dealing with a criminal plague on the neighborhood and all you can do is pick apart semantics in search of bias??????

A girl was beaten and likely died of her injuries and you are miffed over a slight you invented yourself?

Priorities dude. Neighborhoods are build and survive by people taking positive action together, not people searching every syllable for evidence of prejudice or insult.

Your line of criticism is really no better than the thug who wants to hear an insult just so he can beat the shit out of someone . "You talkin' to me???"

rob said...

Hey anon, I appreciate your comment in view of ABC's positive intentions, but why do people view all criticism, even the smallest, as us-versus-them fight-to-the-death all-out opposition?

I made my point; the ABC website owner made two adjustments that, I think, clarify, improve and protect the site. Is there a problem here?

I think actions can become dangerous when people don't dialogue and don't listen and become entrenched in rigid, defensive opposition.

Last year Clayton Patterson brought attention to a serial rapist loose in the LES. He asked people to get involved and there was instant, immediate dialogue on what to do and how. It led to the rapist's arrest.

That, to me, is a model of community action: reach out, ask people what to do and how to do it and, interestingly, they all goad each other into actually doing it.

This issue is a more complex one. It involves many young adults living in our neighborhood and what appears to be shaping into a culture of violence. Maybe ABC's flyers will solve it. Maybe the community needs something deeper.

Anonymous said...

I live on Avenue D, I'm hispanic and I did not feel offended by the name of abc neighbors. That's irrevelant to me, what's more important is for people to realize that there has been ALOT of teenage thuggery in the neighborhood. The summer just started, BELIEVE ME this will get worse if not stopped.

rob said...

Good point. I looked around the neighborhood and didn't see any of the flyers up. I wonder if there's another way to get the community mobilized. Any suggestions? I could post a request to my e-mail list.