Monday, December 04, 2006

Ceasefire: Give It Your Best Shot

Operation Ceasefire sounds like a good idea to me.

I live a couple of blocks from a local hot spot for violence, the 500 block of Park Avenue. For many years, groups of young adults would gather there after bar closings on the weekend, to get food at the White Tower and Kennedy Fried Chicken and to mingle. Sometimes as many as 200 people milled around there, causing police to have to shut down traffic. I would hear the loud “thwack” of barriers being tossed off a truck around midnight, then later the shouting and sometimes gunshots and police cars before the barriers were picked up around 3:30 a.m. and noisily tossed in a parking lot.

Because the street was blocked, some of the revelers parked right under my windows in a municipal parking lot and walked to the restaurants. Their loud conversations and smashed bottles added to my inability to get any sleep.

After a fatal shooting one year, authorities tried to get the eateries to close down overnight. That didn’t work, but things did tone down a bit. Still, even now I can look in my journal and see entries about late-night gunshots. Sometimes I call police and sometimes I just take note of the gunshots and wait to see whether I hear a lot of police cars, then an ambulance, then a helicopter. That means it’s really serious.

Somehow I missed the daytime fatal shooting at Park and Sixth. Nor did I hear the blast of gunshots at the other end of my block one early morning when a young man was fatally gunned down in a hallway.

Still, I hear more than enough.

2:45 a.m., 8/6: big volley.
2:26 a.m., 8/13: gunshots.
1:35 a.m. 10/15: lots of gunshots.
2:41 a.m. 11/26: some gunshots nearby and one further away.

Those are all early Sunday mornings.

“Did you see anything?” the dispatcher asks.

Hell no. As curious as I may be, there’s no way I intend to venture out at that hour to peer down Park Avenue.

I think of these late-night gatherings as the Un-Happy Hour, a time when conviviality among armed partyers turns into violence. But maybe it could be worse. A City Council candidate recently complained about “shootings every night” where he lives.

So bring on the task force. Even if some of these shooters are firing just for effect, it is time to cease fire.

--Bernice Paglia


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