Brownsville in Violence Out is a group of civilians who stand over a two block stretch of the Brooklyn town several times a year for five days. All 911 calls from the area are channeled from the police to the civilians, who take the matter into their own hands.
The civilians are unable to arrest and detain. However, they have still managed to persuade people to turn in illegal guns, prevent shoplifting, keep a man from robbing a bodega and stop a pregnant woman from beating her boyfriend, according to a New York Times article.
They associate themselves with a larger group called the Brownsville Safety Alliance. This is an organization meant to reform police work by ensuring fewer people are forced into the criminal justice system.
Along with the Brownsville in Violence Out group, there are tables set up along the blocks during this stretch of the year that offer free child care and addiction recovery services.
Residents of the Brooklyn Avenue tend to feel safer during this portion of the year.
Brownville resident Minerva Vitale is quoted in the New York Times article saying, “We call them and, poof, they come right away. You think they ain’t ready for this? Yes, they are.”
More forceful attempts have been made to reform or abolish police departments since the demonstrations that swept the country in the face of George Floyd being murdered by a police officer, opening the doors to examine systemic issues within police departments.
According to a Police Violence report compiled from media reports, obituaries, public record and databases such as The Gun Violence Archive, 1,200 people were killed by police in 2022.
This is more than any other year in the past decade. Most of these killings involved a police response to a non-violent offense or even cases where no crime was reported.
Fearmongering perpetuated by far right officials have convinced the general public that police defunding is putting everyone in danger. However, data compiled by ABC owned television stations have found that across 100 cities and counties in 2022, 83% are spending at least 2% more on police than they were in 2019. In 49 cities or counties, police funding has increased by more than 10%.
Rather than continuing to feed money into the criminal justice system, government officials should be taking a closer glance at the root of violence in the U.S., given the vast number of officers causing civilians to feel unsafe while driving, walking on the street or even sitting in their own home.
The experiment being conducted by the people of Brownsville sets an example of the potential steps we could take away from policing. Brooklyn city plans to provide $2.1 million to link local organizations that are highly involved in the Safety Alliance in order to allow more cohesive and persistent work.
Added funds may lead to more conclusive evidence on a world where police work is made obsolete. Community outreach and civilians looking out for one another through mutual aid can fill the space of invasive and violent policing that has already taken too many lives.