Brooklyn Neighborhood Polices Itself

A small radius of a Brooklyn neighborhood was part of a recent experiment. For five days in April, residents of Brownsville relied on neighbors to respond to small, local crimes rather than the police force.

The unconventional trial has the potential to change law-enforcement policy in New York. The initiative is run by workers from Brownsville In Violence Out. Several times a year for a period of five days, all 911 calls received from the two-block area are forwarded to the civilians. Undercover police officers shadow the responses, interfering only in the event of a major incident or a necessary arrest. While the civilians cannot carry out arrests, they have successfully prevented shoplifting and domestic violence, and have facilitated the return of illegal guns.

The goal is to prevent excessive arrests and crowding in the criminal justice system. The team is associated with the Brownsville Safety Alliance, comprised of neighborhood and city groups, police officers, and members of the Kings County District Attorney’s office. The members of Brownsville In Violence Out patrol the streets, and agency representatives are seated at tables to offer various services, including free child care and addiction recovery support.

In support of the initiative, the city is offering $2.1 million to connect all the participating organizations in an effort to create a more cohesive unit.

Feedback has been largely positive. Many residents have expressed increased feelings of safety and reduced anxiety when walking the streets. Some shop owners are more skeptical, and still use precautionary measures when doing business.

In the meantime, statistics show encouraging results in the 73rd Precinct. There was a 50 percent reduction of homicides in the first half of 2023 and 25% fewer shootings, as well as a reduced rate of grand larcenies of automobiles. Only time will tell the impact of the civilian responders.


Shari has certainly been around the block. As a teacher, writer, former CEO and present day master chef, Shari can cover a human interest story with a flare and style hard to match anywhere. Born and raised in the streets, schools and institutions of Brooklyn, Shari is the epitome of Brooklyn life. Contact Shari at shari(at)