New York City’s murder rate has dropped nearly 15 percent compared to last year, according to the New York City Police Department.
But East Harlem’s 23rd Precinct is another story.
There have been seven murders in that area this year, compared to two after nine months last year.
Iesha Sekou knows all about crime statistics in Harlem. She is often among the first to arrive at crime scenes and console victim’s families.
”[The violence] stays in your head, you wake up with it, you go to sleep with it,” Sekou said. “It’s not easy to be at a site and you know that this is somebody’s 15-year-old baby lying in a puddle of blood.”
Sekou is a community organizer in Harlem and tries to educate youth through her organization, Street Corner Resources. Street Corner Resources began nearly three years ago and provides youth activities, educational workshops and employment training.
“We try to tell these kids that there are more options to life than killing,” Sekou said. “But violence is glorified, not positive behavior. So it’s hard to get the message through.”
A new documentary series, ‘Brick City,’ explores the same issues Sekou works on each day. The series is set less than 10 miles away in Newark, NJ.
It follows the plight of Newark residents and officials as they work to reduce crime and improve the city’s image.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker is featured prominantly in the documentary. He said it is a constant struggle to get young people, especially young black males, to think positively of their future.
“It’s hard to communicate, to have them open their minds to possibility,” Booker said. “It says in the Bible, ‘without vision, the people will perish,’ so if you have such a narrow vision of yourself and your life, you’ll never expand to your full capacity.”
The five-part series is airing this week on Sundance Channel.
Sekou said the series could help shine a positive light on people striving to impact their communities.
“Violence is not exclusive to Harlem,” Sekou said. ”[The media] needs to show up when we are here working to effect change. Not just when bodies are down and crime scene tape is up.”