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Officials Speak Out Against Washington Heights Violence

By Sonia Rincon, 1010 WINS reporter

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- A spike in gang recruitment and violence, including the murders of two young men this month, in Washington Heights had Upper Manhattan officials demanding action Sunday.

State Senator Adriano Espalliat said he did not want to see the neighborhood return to the "bad old days."

"We are calling on the law enforcement community to come up with a multi-layered task force, similar to the ones that were created in the 80's to combat drug sale when we had drug wars here in northern Manhattan," Espalliat said at a news conference.

On Friday, a 20-year old man was stabbed to death in front of a bodega on Saint Nicholas Avenue near W. 188th Street. A suspect, whose image was captured by a nearby surveillance camera, remains at large.

Just two blocks south on W. 186th Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue, a 16-year old boy was beaten and stabbed to death on the sidewalk two weeks ago. That same night, an 18-year-old was shot to death in nearby Harlem on W. 136th Street and Lenox Avenue.

Sunday, at the scene of Friday's killing, Espalliat said there is reason to believe the two Washington Heights murders were gang related. He said "very sophisticated" gangs have been increasing efforts to recruit neighborhood teens, using cash and other incentives to entice them to commit crimes.

In 1990, there were 119 people killed in Washington heights, according to State Senator Guillermo Linares. He said aggressive crime fighting and prevention efforts dropped the number of annual homicides dropped to 7 in 1998. In 2010, there were 4 homicides in the neighborhood.

"To see two of our young people killed, and we're not yet at the end of January, it rings alarm, concern and need for action," Linares said.

"We know how much we suffered in the 80's and 90's. And we know that most of our teenagers are doing good things. And we want to make sure that the young people are safe in the street," said City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who also called for schools and local non-profit organizations to redouble their efforts to prevent gang recruitment.

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