Two months before he was scheduled to start high school, 14-year-old Tyrick Keyes was murdered on July 16 in Newhallville, roughly a mile north of Yale’s central campus. With the case still open more than three months later, community activists came together on Oct. 20 to honor Keyes’ legacy by cleaning a city street corner in his home neighborhood and canvassing around the site of his shooting.
Stacy Spell, program manager for Project Longevity-New Haven and the event’s organizer, said that after seeing “no community and moral outrage” following the death of Keyes — someone Spell knew personally as a “typical and good-natured kid” — he hoped the event would inspire other New Haven residents to take control of the city’s future.
“We are the ones who live here, the ones who eat here, the ones who sleep here,” he said. “We need to build community engagement and create empowerment.”
Echoing this, New Haven Police Department Chief Anthony Campbell ’95 DIV ’09 released a statement about the crime. “Success happens and hinges on working with our community,” it reads. “There is no place in New Haven for those who do not value the safety of every member of our community and the sanctity of life.”
The cleanup occurred at the intersection of Shelton Avenue and Bassett Street in Newhallville — a neighborhood with a particularly high level of crime. In fact, less than a week after the Keyes’ death, the site saw the shooting of a 13-year-old boy, whose name was not released.
While less than 10 volunteers attended the event, Spell said that it was not about the number of people who came but rather about setting an example for the community and creating a dialogue about violent crime. The central message was that the volunteers, regardless of the number of attendants or the amount of support they had, were going to use that corner as a starting point for their work.
After the cleanup, the group canvassed in conjunction with two detectives from the NHPD, spiraling outward from the site of Keyes’ shooting.
The canvas followed the NHPD’s Oct. 16 announcement of a $50,000 reward to anyone who provided information pertaining to the case as an incentive for witnesses to come forward.
The goal was to provide residents and witnesses who may distrust the police with the opportunity to talk to other residents about the crime, in hopes they might be more willing to speak up.
Spell suggested that distrust of the police is a major reason for people’s hesitancy to come forward with information and cited a deep divide between residents of New Haven and police officers, many of whom live outside the city. Because of this, he added that long-term improvements to the city will be more successful if police are able to engage the community and give residents “a sense of ownership” over their city.
The NHPD declined to comment on the case and did not respond to questions about distrust in the community.
Project Longevity is a Connecticut-based organization that seeks to combat violent crime in New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford. It specifically targets gang-related crimes by providing community members with medical, educational, housing and employment services. The nonprofit also welcomes anyone from the community who wants to work toward a less violent city.
Nicolas Wicaksono ’19, a volunteer for Project Longevity, praised the work Spell and the organization are doing.
“It makes sure that the community, and not just the police, has a stake in reducing crimes, and makes sure that people . . . are aware that the path of violence is not the only option,” he said. “The work shifts the narrative from violent and oppressive to one that shows we care about the community.”
In memory of Keyes, Spell planted a tree at the Little Red Hen Community Garden, where he and Keyes worked together. He said he hopes it will commemorate Keyes’ legacy as a community activist and a passionate youth.
Keyes was a dancer and planned to attend Hillhouse High School.
Niki Anderson | firstname.lastname@example.org