Students walk by the entrance to Clara Barton High School in Crown Heights on Nov. 20, the day police speak to students there
“If you’re bullying somebody…we will take you to court….[it] doesn’t matter your age…there’s juvy,” said the 71st Precinct’s Officer Larry Taylor as he addressed a group of students at Clara Barton High School Wednesday morning.
The students were talkative and a little rowdy in the auditorium of their Crown Heights high school. They didn’t seem to register Taylor’s words.
The officer continued, speaking at a rapid pace.
“There are cameras everywhere in this city, on every building,” he said.
At this, Taylor’s partner, Officer Silverstein advanced toward the inattentive students and, raising his voice, temporarily silenced them.
The talk at Clara Barton was one of a series the 71st precinct is delivering to all public schools within its boundaries in response to a slew of recent attacks in the neighborhood in which young people are hitting others, reportedly often targeting Jews. The attacks all follow the same pattern – the perpetrator tries to knock out his victim with one fierce punch – and have been categorized as incidents of the “knockout game.”
According to Officer Silverstein, the topics covered at each high school are the same as those at the next: bullying and cultural awareness. The message seemed to veer between two poles – work with the police to protect yourself, or be afraid of them.
“If you see something, say something,” they said at Clara Barton on Wednesday.
“Tell a teacher, a guidance counsellor, someone,” Taylor said. “[So,] someone won’t talk to you, but you’ll save a life.”
The other message: be afraid of the “knockout game” and be afraid of the police. After warning that what happened to the young Jewish man who was knocked out on Kingston Ave on Nov. 10 could happen to public school kids, Taylor later ensured that if you’re bullying on any platform, including cyberspace, “you’re going down for a crime” because there are “no secret phone calls the government is not monitoring.”
The students seemed to absorb the basics of the talk, but a couple had comments about the fundamental point of notifying an authority figure when you are bullied or see someone bullied.
“If you snitch, the whole squad is coming after you. Then what?” one student asked.
“What’s the biggest squad out there?” Silverstein asked.
One student yelled out an answer, causing the rest of her peers to laugh and jeer for a minute or two before the officers regained control of the room.
“The NYPD is the biggest gang out there,” Silverstein said, noting the 34,000 cops in NYC. “When you call, we’re all coming.”
“We have tanks, we have helicopters,” Taylor added. “Believe me, we’re everywhere.”