The city’s deadly scourge of street violence has claimed at least 21 children so far this year — more than triple the number for the same period in both 2019 and 2020, according to a Post analysis of NYPD data.
This year’s grim figure involves kids between the ages of 10 and 17 who were killed by either guns or knives between January and Sept. 30. By comparison, the NYPD reported six children under age 18 shot to death in the first nine months of 2020, while in 2019, five were slain in gun violence and stabbings, the numbers show.
“I am left with a hole in my heart that I don’t know how to explain,” said Juliana Gopie-Sanon, whose 17-year-old son, Bryan Sanon, was struck by a stray bullet when he was fatally shot on a Brooklyn street one Saturday morning in March.
“Those nights I think about how I will never see my son, I just break down,” the 49-year-old mother told The Post on Friday. “Innocent kids are being killed in the street.”
Some of the young victims of the city bloodshed were caught up in gang violence, the intended targets of crimes. Others were simply caught in crossfire, such as Sanon.
“This coming October, [Bryan] would have been 18 years old and this is one of the hardest things to deal with right now,” his mother said. “It’s really, really painful.”
Christopher Herrmann, a shootings and homicide expert from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said, “It’s always easy to blame” the proliferation of guns available on the street for the violence.
But the COVID-19 pandemic, a reduction in programs aimed at keeping kids safe and initiatives such as bail reform are also playing a role.
“The pandemic leads to unemployment, leads to financial insecurity, leads to housing insecurity, food shortage, all of that stuff leads to mental-health stressors, and once we see mental health stressors go up, you see violence go up,” Herrmann said.
He added that remote learning amid the pandemic also could have given kids more free time during the day to be on the street — and such a change in routine can affect behavior.
“Staying home from school or going to school, it’s going to change the way they operate, it’s going to change the places where they are and the times they are doing things,” he said.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, the former chair of the City Council’s Police Oversight Committee, said the pandemic created a void in the lives of Big Apple kids that gangs noticed and exploited.
“I warned about this when the pandemic hit and we talked about the budget and we talked about slashing the summer jobs and parks program,” Donovan said. “The problem is, the gangs already got ahold of them, we lost a whole year.
“Somebody’s gotta fill the void for these kids, and the gangs did. … The gangs snatched these kids up.
“We’re in a state of catching up, and we’re in a state of emergency, quite honestly.”
Police sources also pointed to the 2017 “Raise the Age” law — which requires 16- and 17-year-olds charged with violent crimes to be tried as juveniles — as having “emboldened” gangs to commit more bloodshed.
“The gang members are allowing the younger people to do the shooting because there’s less consequences for them, especially if it’s a first, second or third offense,” a source said of the law, which took effect in October 2018 for 16-year-olds and in October 2019 for 17-year-olds.
“They say, ‘You traumatize a 16-year-old kid when you put them in jail with a grown man’ — but they’re out there doing grown-man things.”
A Bronx cop claimed another issue is the NYPD’s hyper-focus on optics and its tendency to pander to elected officials who politicize crime-fighting and disregard victims.
“The NYPD lost its way in what truly matters to the public, which is making New Yorkers feel safe,” the source griped.
“The NYPD wants better community policing, but when a cop is filmed playing basketball in uniform with kids, it’s looked down upon, and all the cops are waiting by the printer to see when is that same cop getting suspended for having too much fun on the job,” he said.
“The NYPD cares too much what other people think and about how the NYPD looks rather than worrying about how the NYPD is actually helping people.”
When asked for comment, City Hall rep Bill Neidhardt said gun arrests are up 37 percent so far this year compared to 2020 and 30 percent over 2019’s figure.
“The death of one child is too many and an outright tragedy,” Neidhardt said.
“New York City is committed to getting guns off the street in record numbers and invest billions in communities, which is the most effective way to fight back crime. We still have more work to do and will never give up.”
But for the families who’ve lost their children to gun violence, it’s too little too late.
“Do better, just do better,” said Antonio Turnage, 42, whose 16-year-old nephew, Jaden Turnage, was fatally shot in Brooklyn on Wednesday.
“There aren’t enough resources, especially in low-income neighborhoods, so they are out in the streets joining gangs, shootings,” he said of the city’s criminals.
“We need more resources for these kids because they don’t seem to care about life, their life or anybody’s life,” Turnage said.
“We are losing our kids out here. They are supposed to be the future. How can they be the future if they are dying? You don’t bury the youth, we aren’t supposed to do that, that’s not how it’s supposed to work.”
Additional reporting by Larry Celona, Tamar Lapin and Nolan Hicks
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