Crime / Police

Crime rises, but cops hope for better

John Bolger

A mobile command unit on Hunts Point Ave.

Gun violence slightly up, car theft way down

The streets of Hunts Point and Longwood are a bit more dangerous this year than last, according to statistics compiled by the 41st Precinct. But as 2012 moved toward its end, the crime rate was falling, allowing police to hope that they have reined-in the young thieves they say are chiefly responsible for a spike in violence.

“We’ve been struggling in terms of the youth crews who commit robberies and shootings,” said Captain Philip Rivera, the precinct commander.

Gun violence has risen to 30 incidents as of mid-December, up five from the same time in 2011, but last year there were three shootings before Christmas and this year just one.

“The beginning of the year from last year into this year we started spiking until January or February,” said Rivera, “The fact that we’re down right now, I hope to carry that momentum into next year.”

He said a surge of Operation Impact officers — rookies just out of the Police Academy who are sent to high-crime areas — and  more foot patrols have resulted in more efficient crime fighting.

Homicides in Hunts Point nearly doubled in 2012 with seven cases as compared to four last year.  Rape has fallen by roughly a third with 11 incidents this year as opposed to 17 in 2011. Robberies were also up slightly this year to 301 incidents from 284 last year. Grand larceny numbers also rose to 292, up 24 cases since last year.

A bright spot is the steep decline in car theft, from 86 last year to 49. The number of burglaries also fell slightly, from 200 to 189.

According to the captain, the area on Hunts Point Avenue between Garrison Avenue and Lafayette Avenue has been a problem for the past three years. When a two-month-old baby was hit by a stray bullet on Seneca Avenue near Irvine Street in September, the NYPD dispatched a mobile command center from the Bronx Borough Patrol to Hunts Point Avenue between Seneca and Gilbert Place and the precinct increased foot patrols in the area. Rivera said that has been instrumental in curbing crime.

“They are why we are seeing a decreasing trend in violent issues,” he said, adding that Operation Impact gave him the resources to put more officers on the street.

Rikers distorts stats

While Hunts Point and Longwood are high-crime areas, they are not quite as crime-prone as the NYPD’s official statistics suggest.

That’s because crimes committed in the jails on Rikers Island are counted in the 41st Precinct’s statistics. Community leaders want to see that changed.

Inmate assaults accounted for roughly 14 percent of the felony assaults in the Four-One this year. The number of assaults in the neighborhood is still high, but instead of the 525 violent incidents recorded in the police statistics, there were actually 449 on local streets.

Rikers Island’s boundaries are contentious on many fronts. For political purposes, Rikers prisoners live in Queens, and Bronx elected officials often complain that they lose out on money that is distributed on a per capita basis and on how legislative districts are drawn as a result.

It adds insult to injury that crime on Rikers Island is reported to the 41st Precinct and included in the Hunts Point and Longwood crime statistics, even though the jail is policed by Corrections officers, not Bronx police.

Captain Philip Rivera said he would like to see the island removed from the 41st Precinct. “There’s a lot of gang issues on the island,” he told Community Board 2 at a Dec. 18 meeting, adding that 16 of the 39 assaults reported in the 41st Precinct over the 28-day period ending in mid-December were committed on Riker’s.

“It makes our crime stats look worse than they really are,” said Community Board 2 District Manager Rafael Salamanca. “Those crime stats don’t belong in Community Board 2.”

Impact officers were originally deployed for a six-month term, but the precinct has been allowed to keep the larger force for another six months.

“The department allocates resources where they need it most. The fact that we got to retain it shows that we need it,” Rivera said.

Not everyone thinks the increased foot patrols are effective, however.

“The cops were right there, and a kid got jumped right there,” said Casandra Soriano, 26, pointing across the street from the mobile command center on Hunts Point Avenue. “They have DTs walking around and they harass people who don’t do anything instead of the people who actually need to be harassed.”

Soriano said she noticed the increased patrols when they first began in September but that she thought in more recent weeks the patrols had been reduced. “It’s been a terrible few years. It’s all gang-related, it’s all young people,” she said.

Others said they thought that drugs were spurring crime. “These guys don’t have jobs or the opportunity for jobs, so what do they do?  Street jobs,” said Dionisio Holmes, 67, on Hunts Point Avenue and Seneca Avenue just after dusk.

“When the habit is getting the better side of them,” he continued, “they’re hanging outside the check cashing places and the banks waiting for an opportunity of an old person.”

Both Soriano and Holmes said they thought a major factor in local crime was a lack of respect for older residents.

“It’s all about respect and we have to be quite direct with our kids,” Holmes said.  “It’s a reflection of what’s going on in our society.”

Rosa Burgos, president of the 41st Precinct Community Council, encouraged locals to attend the council’s monthly meetings because she felt that many of the community programs discussed there went underutilized.

“There are resources that are not tapped,” she said.  “Of course what’s going to happen is it dries up, and we can’t have that in this community.”

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply