The good news is crime is down in the 50th Precinct in 2017. Well, slightly.
Police released preliminary crime statistics for the year, showing 974 reported crimes across seven major felony categories. That’s three fewer than in 2016, a decrease of just 0.3 percent, but a decrease nonetheless.
With grand larcenies a major issue, these days the big crime problem in the 50th doesn’t involve people, precinct commanding officer Terence O’Toole said, but property.
Grand larceny led all major crime categories with 524 reported incidents, putting it ahead of murder and manslaughter, rape, robbery, assault, burglary and car theft. That’s a jump of more than 11 percent over last year.
Felony assaults were well behind it with 140 incidents — a decrease of nearly 9 percent. Burglaries followed, up nearly 3 percent.
Car break-ins and other auto crimes were a big problem, leading to talk in the community of an “epidemic.” Rim and tire thieves are especially tough to nab.
“That’s the unfortunate problem — unless you catch them immediately in the act, you really can’t prove it,” O’Toole said. “They drive around and scout, look for the cars they want, come back that night. One guy’ll get out, loosen the lug nuts, look around, and then the rest of the team will come up and steal all the wheels.
“It can be done in a matter of seconds.”
One way to prevent car thefts, O’Toole said, is for people to “stop leaving their lives in their cars. They also need to be careful about where they leave their keys — and definitely shouldn’t leave them in the car, or any spot offering easy access to car thieves.
Outside of property crimes, the 50th also recorded three murders last year.
In July, the Amalgamated houses were rocked by the death of two toddlers, ruled a homicide by the medical examiner’s office. That case, O’Toole said, is still open.
“Obviously the suspects are limited,” O’Toole said. “It was the mother and the boyfriend who were in the apartment at the time of the incident, so we really can’t do anything until we have more information.”
Crime might be solved in an hour on police procedurals found on television, but the reality is much different.
“There’s issues with proving who did the homicide — that’s the problem,” O’Toole said. “I think a common sense person would realize it’s one of the two people. But the question becomes, which one of the two people?”
Last September, Pedro Almonte-Sanchez was gunned down in front of his Kingsbridge Heights home. Police arrested Zachary Brown on Jan. 19 in connection with the shooting, leveling charges again him including second-degree murder and attempted murder.
Just days before the new year, police arrested Eugene Villani in connection with the 2013 murder of Efijenio Deletorre in Van Cortlandt Park. Villani was charged with murder, manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon, according to the New York Police Department.
“The homicide task force had been working with the precinct here on getting him to confess,” O’Toole said. “He just came in on his own, because he knew the police were closing in on him, to put it bluntly. He walked in and confessed.”
When it comes to investigating years-old homicide cases, O’Toole says the NYPD doesn’t give up.
“We have what’s called a cold case squad where several detectives go out over an old homicide, an old robbery, or something where someone was killed, and they’ll look at the case anew,” he said. “Maybe there’ll be new information, maybe they’ll go back and interview people, and people will start to remember different things. And quite often they make a very nice arrest.”
One bright spot came in the form of robberies, something O’Toole describes as “a bellwether crime.” Those dropped by nearly 25 percent from 2016.
“Robberies of people on the street or commercial establishments is an indication of disorder and crime that we try to fight,” O’Toole said. “That’s what really scares people, is getting robbed.”
As for arrests, there were 242 reported across the seven major felony categories in 2017, down a little more than 8 percent from the previous year, but a 10 percent increase compared with four years ago. Assault led the way among felony arrests, at 112, up more than 13 percent. Grand larceny arrests came in second, at 58, just one more than in 2016.
Citywide, 2017 saw the fewest murders and shootings ever recorded in the modern era, with the lowest per-capita murder rate since 1951, according to the NYPD. There were three new crime reduction benchmarks — the first time the total number of index crimes fell below 100,000, the first time the total number of shooting incidents fell below 800, and the first time the total number of murders was below 300.
In total, 96,517 crimes were reported, down 5.4 percent from 2016. Murders were down 13 percent at 290, while shootings dropped nearly 21 percent.
“Crime in New York City has reached a new low,” police commissioner James P. O’Neill said in a release. “The murder rate hasn’t been lower since the Korean War. As we celebrate this New York miracle, we continue deepening relationships with the public, emphasizing the shared responsibility we have to our safety.”
Looking ahead, along with the continued rollout of body-worn cameras, O’Toole foresees big changes to policing in the 50th and elsewhere. The NYPD is looking for people who want to get involved helping fight crime and serving as liaisons between police and the community as neighborhood coordination officers.
In the meantime, the 50th Precinct will continue working to reduce the area’s main crime problems.
“We try,” O’Toole said. “We follow up on every one of the grand larcenies, and everything else. We do extra patrols. Right now the auto crimes division is taking over all the thefts of tires and rims — because we feel the thefts of tires and rims are like a somewhat organized group — so we feel that they’re going to, hopefully, have a better chance of catching them before they do it.”