08/22/2012 01:54 pm ET

Olympic Gymnast John Orozco's Bronx Alma Mater Plagued By Gun Violence

By Murray Weiss

THE BRONX — There were two alums of Felisa Rincon de Gautier Institute for Law and Public Policy back in Soundview last week. One was a returning Olympic hero. The second was a visitor about to be struck by tragedy.

John Orozco, 19, a gymnast fresh from London, received a welcome fitting for an Olympian.

The other was Curtis Hinton, 23, back visiting family from his home down South. He was shot in the back of the head and killed.

"Curtis always had everyone’s back and protected those who helped others," a school official recalled. "Getting out of the neighborhood was a good move for him."

Hinton's murder was the latest in a spate of shootings that have rocked the school's community in recent weeks. Just days earlier, eight people were shot citywide on National Night Out Against Crime.

They included a 17-year-old boy and two girls, 14 and 18, were shot inside the Agnes Haywood Playground in the neighborhood where a large contingent of the school’s students live.

The principal of the Felisa Rincon de Gautier Institute for Law and Public Policy was not surprised by the recent spike in violence. In fact, she likely could have predicted it.

Grismaldy Laboy-Wilson, who grew up in the Soundview Projects, which is located directly across the street from the school she founded in 2004, said there are two reasons for the spike in crime and violence in the area.

On the one hand, the Police Athletic League and an Urban Explorers program, which teaches kids about law enforcement, were cut from the neighborhood, she said. On the other, the NYPD cut its police presence in the area.

"When we had the programs, I did not have meetings where I had to say we lost a student, or that a student was shot," Laboy-Wilson said. "And never in my nine years did I ever have to say something like that, back to back."

Laboy-Wilson explained that the PAL used to host events that would keep kids entertained or otherwise occupied.

“They used to come to the school where we put on performances, dances, and had recreation," she said, adding that parents and students have asked her to try to get it back.

"When you withdraw that from a neighborhood, what can we do?

“You take that away and you increase the risk that kids become victims of crime or commit it.”

Then the NYPD decreased police presence around the schools and along major transit thoroughfares that the children travel to get safely to and from school.

She said that the department has even stripped some of it posts outside so-called local crime hot spots near bus stops, leaving her kids waiting anxiously around suspicious people and criminals.

“It is all causing concern,” she said. “The NYPD has to step up and provide for the children. As everyone should know, it takes a village to educate a child.”

And a few community programs and more cops to keep them safe.



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