A group of Brentwood residents hoping to combat the violence that has plagued the neighborhood met Sunday to plan a new community-watch group.
"We're ready to make change the best way we know how," Billy Moss, chief of staff of BRAVE Neighborhood Watch, said to the group. BRAVE stands for Brentwood Residents Against Violence Everyday.
The effort comes in response to the escalating violence in Brentwood and neighboring Central Islip, which together recorded nine violent deaths last year and five more since January.
Hundreds of residents have attended recent meetings calling for a greater police presence and other efforts that aim to reduce violence.
Sunday's gathering, at the Brentwood Public Library, largely avoided the high emotions of the recent community meetings.
Instead, it focused on what form the new watch group will take. Neighborhood Watch differs from vigilantism - and even from nosy neighbors spying on each other - by building a team of community members who pay attention to their surroundings, network with one another, and call police when they see suspicious people or events.
"Neighborhood Watch is one block at a time," Officer Charles Ross of Suffolk's Third Precinct told the group. "You take care of your section, your block. You know who belongs there and who doesn't."
Speakers also emphasized the importance of supervising children and teenagers and removing graffiti, and they urged police to respond quickly when residents report problems.
Kaliah Greene, 29, of Brentwood, said she was motivated to attend the meeting after seeing the neighborhood where she grew up undergo a change for the worse.
"To continue to sit down and do nothing, I would be a part of the problem, not part of the solution," she said. "I just know there's so much better for my community."
Lifelong Brentwood resident Keith Allison, 42, said he was heartened by the outcome of the meeting.
"I think a neighborhood watch will be effective as long as politicians work with us, if everyone embraces it," Allison said. "You're not going to change Brentwood overnight, but I think it will definitely be effective."