“The dynamics that play out with gang and drug homicides are in neighborhoods that typically don’t have very good relationships with law enforcement, so they question whether they’re able to trust the police with sharing information they might have,” said Anthony Braga, a criminology professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
In the Bronx, Lieutenant O’Toole said, officers have noticed much more reluctance when speaking to the community, a phenomenon he attributes to the state’s discovery laws.
“It’s not for lack of trying,” Lieutenant O’Toole said of the rate of unsolved homicides. “We’re not getting a lot of community help.”
For Ms. Sanchez, much of that rings hollow. Her son was not known by the police to affiliate with any gang or drug activity. His shooting was caught clearly on video. And the man who pulled the trigger was not wearing a mask. The gunman’s face, fully visible on video footage, has haunted her.
In the weeks after Mr. Lewis died, Ms. Sanchez and her husband, Joseph Trinidad, were patient. The police said they identified a suspect within hours, but they did not want to release his picture, for fear of scaring him out of New York, Ms. Sanchez said. As the months have dragged on, she and her husband have grown frustrated at the lack of progress.
Between each monthly balloon release, a hard question looms: What if the phone call never comes?
Mr. Lewis spent nearly all of his short life in the Bronx, most of it on Bainbridge Avenue, where he lived with his parents and two younger brothers. A prankster with a big appetite, he was known for calling — not texting — friends and family, and for his fiercely protective nature.
After his death, neighbors recounted stories of Mr. Lewis escorting women and children home. One friend said that Mr. Lewis would often pay for a car to take her to and from her overnight job, so she didn’t have to walk alone to a bus stop.