Episodes of gun violence — the latest wounding a 15-year-old girl while she slept in her bed — at the Suncrest Court Apartments in northwest Fort Lauderdale have residents fed up and on edge but too scared to talk.
On Tuesday evening about three dozen, mostly mothers, turned out for a community exchange with city police officers. They voiced their concerns and expressed their fears — daylight robberies, ducking behind trees during crossfire, playing children scattering when bullets fly — but withheld their names.
“What’s my grand-baby going to do? She’s afraid to sleep in her own bed,” the wounded girl’s grandmother, who declined to give her name, asked.
“They know who it is but they don’t want to tell,” she said of witnesses to early Monday morning’s drive-by shooting in the neighborhood tucked west of Interstate 95 and north of West Sunrise Boulevard. Several homes were scarred by gunfire in the incident.
“Every Sunday it’s the same thing, shots after 10 o’clock,” another woman said.
“When we come out our doors we have to duck and dive and look around,” a mother of two said. “We can’t even let our kids walk to school.”
“My next-door neighbor has six bullet holes,” said another.
Five Fort Lauderdale police officers present for Tuesday evening’s forum listened to the frustrations and concerns, assured stepped-up patrols and police presence and implored residents to get past their fears and speak up and out.
“It’s about us working together in order to solve the problems that we got going on,” Lt. Cecil Stone said.
“People are just going to need to start standing up and saying ‘enough is enough,’” said Officer Paul Johnson. “Not talking perpetuates the problem.”
Monday’s shooting was not an isolated incident. In June, a 22-year-old man was killed and four others were wounded when someone shot into the crowd during a crowded block party in the 2300 block of Northwest 16th Court, police said.
Suncrest Court, known to cops and residents as “The Guv,” is a public housing community with 66 duplexes dating from the 1960s.
“For years there was a gang problem out there that had settled down,” said Tam English, executive director of Fort Lauderdale’s Housing Authority. “It comes and goes. But in the last three to six months, it seems to have erupted.”
English said several young men recently were arrested for carrying concealed weapons.
“What makes things difficult is nobody wants to talk, because they’re all afraid,” English said.
A police spokeswoman said the agency needs residents’ help to solve these shootings.
“See something, say something,” Detective Tracy Figone said in an email. “The relationship between our community and police department is most important when investigating these crimes. We encourage the community to come forward and provide any information on the crimes that occur within their neighborhoods.”
But most in attendance Tuesday said fear would win over.
“I don’t want to see nothing,” one woman said. “If they think that I seen them then they’re going to come back, so my eyes are closed.”
“We’re scared,” another woman echoed. “Nobody ain’t going to say nothing.”
That was true of a man who lives across the street from where the girl was shot Monday. His front door was scarred with four bullet marks, and he withheld his name out of fear. Same for another neighbor, a mother with children.
“The majority of the people here have kids,” she said. “I’m tired of it.”
As Tuesday’s meeting wound down, the most vocal of the women pleaded for help and hope.
“This meeting is the first step and we appreciate you all for that,” she said. “But what do we do from here? We’re going to leave tonight and the same thing’s going to happen again.
“At the end of the day, we’re still scared as hell.”