Following an exclusive story about gang activity in Brighton Beach two weeks ago, this newspaper has received several tips from Hispanic sources that the problem is escalating.
“I can’t even sleep or eat,” said one source from El Salvador, who said he has been shaken down several times by the gang while walking to and from his residence on Brighton 7th Street.
“They have been threatening me for money and I don’t even have a job now. I used to work at Astroland for three years but they closed down,” he added.
The source said he tells the gang he has no money and turns his pockets inside out.
“They say to me, ‘the next time you better have money or I‘ll beat you up,’” the source said.
Two Hispanic sources said gang members all have large tattoos on their forearms with rosaries, and they tend to hang out on Brighton 7th Street, although they also hang out on a laundromat nearby on Neptune Avenue as well as on Brighton, 1st, 2nd and 8th Streets.
“Police are now supervising the area, but nothing was really done. This particular gang keeps harassing and making threats to working-class Mexicans,” said another source.
The source said that two Russian women are serving as lookouts on Brighton 7th Street.
Police identified two of the gangs as the PCS and the Panchitos. Sources in the community said a third gang is called Escuadron.
Many Latino immigrants have flooded into Brighton Beach SRO (single-room-occupancy) dwellings over the past few years, according to Brighton Neighborhood Association president Pat Singer.
Singer speculated that the gangs, along with a recent spate of fires, could be part of a bigger ploy to get people out of the neighborhood so developers could come in.
Another source with deep neighborhood ties speculated that much of the new Hispanic unemployment stems from the move to hire African-Americans from the western side of Coney Island for the sought-after seasonal jobs in theamusement district.
Singer said she has complained to the 60th Precinct about the problem.
She also gave the precinct a petition with 51 signatures asking for more protection from the gangs.
“This should be enough to say we have a problem,” said Singer. “This man [from El Salvador] man has been screwed by Coney Island and now he’s being victimized in Brighton Beach.”
Singer said police told her they would send plain clothes SNEU (Street Narcotic Enforcement Unit) teams to the area.
One problem is that the Hispanic people being victimized are afraid to report incidents to police, she said.
The problem in Brighton Beach comes as the 60th Precinct, which covers both Coney Island and Brighton Beach, appears short in manpower.
The precinct recently instituted an ‘Impact Zone,’ a section of a precinct which has experienced an upsurge in crime and where extra cops flood the area, along Mermaid Avenue between West 24th and West 36th Streets.
The precinct also has more patrols along the amusement and beach area during the summer season.
Steve Zeltser, spokesperson for City Councilmember Mike Nelson, whose district includes Brighton Beach, said the story in this newspaper was the first they have heard about a gang problem.
“If we have constituents come in and complain, we’ll call the police right away,” he said.
- with Giselle Pena