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Coney homes riddled with stray bullets

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Residents of Coney Island’s west end are under fire in their own homes, and locals want the city to do more to protect residents from the stray bullets that riddle their neighborhood.

A recent spate of shootings has left houses along Mermaid Avenue pocked with bullet holes, and locals are worried the violence could turn deadly at any minute.

One resident living with her 92-year-old mother said they have abandoned the first floor of their home because slugs keep slamming through the walls and door.

“I don’t want to stay on the first floor because this is going on,” said Amy Cheung, whose Mermaid Avenue home is riddled with bullet holes after stray shots struck it during three separate shootings in July, October, and November. “I get home from work and go straight upstairs — it’s safer there.”

The latest incident was Nov. 10, when a group of goons fired a volley of at least 24 shots from at least three different guns, missing their intended target and instead striking Cheung’s home, according to a police report.

The 60th Precinct has seen 20 shootings so far this year — one less than the same period last year, according to precinct commanding officer Deputy Inspector James Rooney — but the local councilman said those figures are misleading, because the police department only counts gunshots as a “shooting” when someone is struck.

“I take serious issue with the fact that [police] can look at a bullet hole in a wall and say it doesn’t count as a ‘shooting,’ ” said Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island).

The city is pumping money into the Amusement District’s redevelopment, and Mayor DeBlasio is crowing about growth citywide, but Treyger said the city needs to keep up by deploying more police — especially to Coney Island.

“If the city is growing — and the mayor boasts of it — we need to increase the budget for the NYPD,” he said.

But budget-boosts alone will not resolve the issue, Rooney and Treyger agreed. Part of the problem is that people aren’t reporting all the gun violence in Coney Island, the precinct commander and the councilman said in separate interviews.

“Nobody has reached out to us to say ‘I know what happened,’ ” Rooney said. “You can remain anonymous.”

One resident said locals have become so desensitized to the violence that erupts around them on a regular basis that they often don’t even call police after shots ring out.

“We have become numb to the sound of bullets,” said Pamela Pettyjohn, a neighborhood activist who shares a wall with Cheung and has seen stray bullets pass through her home on two separate occasions. “If nobody’s laying in the street dying, we just go back to bed.”

Poor lighting along Coney Island streets also makes it tough for locals to identify shooters when they do report violence, Pettyjohn said.

Like the late Courier columnist Lou Powsner, Pettyjohn wants the city to fix lights in public housing along public streets to make the area safer, she said. She is also calling for training to help locals better describe assailants to police.

But Rooney said the last request was putting the cart before the horse.

“We just want people to call it in,” he said, “without worrying about how to describe someone.

Posted 12:00 am, November 26, 2014
Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
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