Crime might be plummeting to record-shattering lows citywide, but that’s not to say every single northwest Bronx resident — from Kingsbridge Heights to North Riverdale — feels safer.
Yet, last month, on the heels of what could be called a “summer of slaughter,” the city experienced fewer major crimes than in any previous October since the New York Police Department started tracking crime using its so-called CompStat system in the 1990s. “CompStat” is short for “compare statistics,” and major crimes include murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, grand larceny and car thefts.
Overall crime since January, meanwhile, continues to fall to historic lows compared to the same time last year. And overall crime this year is projected to drop beneath what would become a record setting low of 97,000 total indexed crimes by the end of next month.
Also significant — the city had not a single shooting during a three-day stretch spanning a weekend, from Oct. 12 to Oct. 14, the first time that’s happened in the last 25 years, according to the NYPD.
The drop in crime leading up to year’s end is enough to make police commissioner James P. O’Neill “very optimistic.”
“Cops and the people we serve are working together better than ever,” O’Neill said, in a release. “The NYPD and our law enforcement partners at the local, state and federal levels are working in tandem more effectively than at any time in our history.”
“We know that all New Yorkers, in every neighborhood, always need to feel safe,” O’Neill added. “That’s really our ultimate goal.”
Overall, major crimes are down 1.4 percent compared to the same time last year, as of Nov. 4, according to the police department’s statistics, while murders in October are down 41 percent. Shooting incidents also are down nearly 7 percent compared to last October, and have fallen nearly 5 percent since January.
The 50th Precinct has seen an even more precipitous drop in major crimes, according to data through Nov. 4, down 5.4 percent compared to the same time last year — “which is great,” said deputy inspector Terence O’Toole. Murders, however have risen, with five reported as of Nov. 4, compared with three all of last year.
“We’re having some difficulty,” O’Toole said. “If it’s not something that’s like a gang retaliation, there’s not much we can do to prevent it. Murder is a crime of passion, basically.”
Out of five reported, one was related to a fight, O’Toole said, while another appeared to be a robbery gone bad. But a jilted lover allegedly killing his ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend?
“That’s something hard for us to even prevent,” O’Toole said. “Of course, they’re getting solved, which is good. But we’re trying to prevent any more, particularly in the area of gang retaliation.”
Six more rapes have been reported in the 50th Precinct compared to last year, but O’Toole still called those numbers “very low.” None of them appear to have involved strangers, but acquaintances.
“Throughout the department, we think it’s part of the ‘Me Too’ movement making people feel more vocal,” O’Toole said. “They’ll be supported better, so they’re making the complaints.”
Robberies and assaults also have increased, but just slightly. As for burglaries, the 50th Precinct is making significant strides, O’Toole said, with an 11 percent drop since this time last year.
“Burglary is a big crime here,” O’Toole said. “It has been for years. The 5-0 is a place where property crime is the problem, not so much violent crimes. People own nice things here, and other people want those nice things.”
Grand larceny also is down 14 percent, O’Toole said, while car thefts climbed 27 percent — although break-ins are down 50 percent.
“We’re making sure that people are safe with their cars,” O’Toole said, in part through ongoing patrol, but also reminding residents to lock up and securing their property. “People are listening.”
But for some Kingsbridge Heights residents, numbers belie what it actually feels like living near, say, Webb Avenue, which has historically been something of a hotbed for violent crime.
Both Destiny Martinez and Alexandra Dalrymple — who’ve lived in the neighborhood more than 20 years — say shootings, stabbings, robberies and other violent crimes still feel all too frequent.
Their neighbor, Narciso Mercado, however — a union ironworker who moved to the area from Washington Heights about a decade ago — says reality, as he perceives it, seems to reflect the NYPD’s stats.
Outside the jilted lover shotgun shooting last July, Mercado said things had been relatively quiet, and wasn’t aware of any other incidents.
“It does feel safer,” Mercado said, who attributes declining crime in part to an influx of young professionals since when he moved there — including residents like him and his wife.
Whether the greater sense of safety has affected police-community relations, Mercado says he has “no clue.” Mainly, he’s glad crime has gone down.
“I’m seeing the progress,” Mercado said. “People have told me this wasn’t that safe, 10, 20, 30 years ago — stabbings, thieves, murders. I guess (the NYPD’s data) are right.”
Yet, that’s not to say Mercado’s observed an overbearing police presence.
“Physically, with my eyes, I don’t see it,” he said. “If I see a cop car, it’s rare. I guess that’s a good thing, instead of seeing one every day, patrolling.”
O’Toole concedes lowering crime is a constant battle, involving more factors than most residents probably even know about. Two more shooting incidents have roiled the community this year than last, for example, which the deputy inspector suspects could owe to more guns circulating around the city.
More broadly, O’Toole continues to push measures like installation of more security cameras, while neighborhood coordination officers in the 5-0 and throughout the borough pay closer attention to what’s happening on the ground level by talking to residents.
The economy could be a factor, too.
“It’s a little bit more of a prosperous time,” O’Toole said. “People have jobs. They’re making money. Things are going good, throughout the country and the Bronx. Our income here is still low, but a low number is better than zero.” And in Riverdale, it’s relatively high.
“I think people feel safer,” O’Toole added.
“They seem to say we’re in good shape here. It’s not really that bad.”