By KECIAH BAILEY
Following a brutal rape in Canarsie and several other reported rape attempts, the 69th Precinct Clergy Council announced stepped up efforts to combat crime and establish a presence in the community.
The Rev. Cecil Moonsam, president of the clergy council, said there will be an awareness gathering Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. at Rockaway Parkway and Avenue M, where the rape occurred. He outlined the plan during an Oct. 5 meeting of the council at the 69th Precinct station house, saying that clergy members will pass out fliers to residents to inform them of safety measures and various sources of help.
“We just want the community to know we are here for them and to make the streets safer for the women and for everyone,” Moonsam said.
During the monthly meeting at the station house, Community Affairs Officer Eton White said that although crime in the area is down by 10 percent in comparison to this time last year, the rapist was still at large. White said since the rape incident, there have been three reported aggravated rape attempts, all believed to have been perpetrated by the same suspect.
Around midnight on Aug. 30, the rapist allegedly threatened a 19-year-old woman with a gun, pulled her into an alley on Rockaway Parkway, raped her in an abandoned building then fled, police said.
Moonsam, a co-pastor of Restoration Temple Assembly in Canarsie who has been in ministry for more than 35 years, said he became involved with the council to seek a better relationship between clergy, the community and the cops.
As such, the clergy’s mission is to act as a liaison between the community and the police as well as to provide spiritual support for both cops and community as needed. This includes counseling and prayer for families affected by violence as well as spiritual support for officers before they start their daily duties.
The clergy council has held several prayer vigils since the summer of 2014 – a time when gun violence had increased sharply in the 69th Precinct, in comparison to a year prior, according to police reports. There will also be more gatherings at different troubled locations in the neighborhood in the near future, Moonsam said.
Moonsam also announced that the council will increase its efforts to get local churches more involved and so in the coming months will put together packages about the clergy council and its mission and mail them to different houses of worship.
“There are so many churches in Canarsie and they are just not involved enough,” Moonsam said.
In an interview following the meeting, Moonsam said that there are also plans to expand resources in the community by having forums at different houses of worship throughout Canarsie. These meetings, open to the public, will include prayer and spiritual counseling. Officers who work with youth and victims of domestic violence will also be present.
The council meets once monthly at various locations in Canarsie to discuss the latest crime statistics and identify ways in which the community and police can work together to combat crime.
Photo: Members of the 69th Precinct Clergy Council pray in the summer of 2014 at the site of a shooting. (Keciah Bailey)