Community safety is what new commanding officer of the 50th Precinct Capt. Ryan Pierce has made his top priority.
Pierce officially earned the title last December after having served as acting CO since August. The 18-year veteran grew up in Poughkeepsie, then later went to Stony Brook University where he found his calling.
“I was in college and I was kind of figuring out what to do and I took the test,” Pierce said of becoming a cop. “And they called me and I was like ‘all right.’ I don’t have one of those stories, ‘I’ve always wanted to be a cop since I was a kid.’ It’s one of those things that just happened and I happen to be good at it and I kind of just kept pushing at it.”
After graduating from the police academy, Pierce became a cop in July 2006. He spent four months in the 48th Precinct, being involved in “Operation Impact,” a crime reduction strategy implemented by the NYPD and was an officer in the 47th Precinct from 2007 to 2012.
He was promoted to sergeant in 2012, working at Police Service Area 7 in the south Bronx. He worked in Internal Affairs Group 10 in Manhattan then the 25th before returning to the Bronx, working at the 49th Precinct.
Promoted to lieutenant in 2016, he transferred to the 40th Precinct and was promoted to captain, then moved to the 44th Precinct to do field training. Finally, he was asked to come to the 50th following the departure of former CO Filastine Srour, who is now a captain at the Patrol Borough Bronx.
“Every command I’ve ever worked in has been different,” Pierce said. “So it’s just kind of learn the challenges of the neighborhood and you learn the different needs. But at the end of the day, the needs are almost always the same. People want to feel safe and they want their neighborhood to not look like crap.
“They don’t want people hanging out, smoking drugs or smoke weed or drinking in front of the building. They don’t want to see mopeds almost striking pedestrians on the streets.”
For Pierce, the job is never something with a finish line, but a never-ending battle.
“One of the things with this work is you don’t win, there’s no winning. There’s no end, right?” Pierce said. “So it’s kind of hard to say ‘yeah, we accomplished this, this and this’ because at the end of the day, it’s just constantly adjusting everything day to day to make sure that you’re responding to the needs of the community.”
An example of how the precinct recently made adjustments to serve the community was their response to a recent string of robberies at Van Cortlandt Park throughout December and January.
The precinct used smart cars lent by the borough to maneuver through the trails where several robbers on mopeds stole from victims, sometimes at knifepoint. They’ve also installed a light tower.
While no perpetrator has been caught from the recent string, Pierce says there hasn’t been a robbery in the park for a month.
“The other problems we have are very property-crime-related,” Pierce said. “Which is a good problem to have in a way because you don’t see like the violence, you see in some of the other commands.”
The precinct’s major concerns right now are robberies, grand larcenies and grand larceny autos. The 5-0 saw a decrease in grand larceny from 2022 to 2023, with those crimes going down from 711 to 696.
Currently though grand larceny is up 30 percent from the same point last year. Grand larceny auto is also up by over 20 percent for the same point last year.
The precinct has responded to larcenies by doing more midnight car stops, he said. The precinct also has a dedicated patrol car to grand larceny autos with a license reader that scans known active hotspot locations and recovery locations to identify impound lots and scrap yards.
Robberies are currently up over 80 percent for the same period last year, going from 11 to 20.
Pierce said that robberies have changed somewhat since he was a rookie cop, going from mostly crimes of opportunity to more prolific and organized. He’s observed that those crimes are being done not only by young people but also by older people, sometimes with whole crews of people on mopeds. With the pandemic came an increase in robbers using mopeds and masquerading as delivery drivers.
For identifying patterns like the Van Cortlandt Park muggings, that is where the Crime Analysis office comes in handy, he said.
“We get these things identified actually pretty fast,” Pierce said. “These guys have identified two more patterns this week. One of those is closed actually by the way. There was a post-arrest pattern, which is a good pattern to have. And so we go through all of the complaints.
“The tools we have now, these didn’t exist when I was a cop. They’re crazy.
“We have a system, DAS (Domain Awareness System). I can go in there and I can map out anything I feel like and then like you can take stuff off of it. Like this is all stuff you have in the past that you had to do by hand with a pin map.”
Though hate crimes have seen a rise in the city since the Hamas attack on Israel Oct. 7, the 50th has thankfully seen little if any in the past few months, Pierce said. The precinct that Pierce oversees a very diverse one in terms of race, religion and ethnicity.
“We don’t have to have long conversations with these guys about being professional. They should automatically do it,” he said.
“We have a really good new system for CCRB (Civilian Complaint Review Board). So every time somebody in command gets a CCRB I can see it, I can look at it. I get an email, I look through it, I can look at the body cam.
“And since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen anything where somebody was unprofessional.” He believes that is a good situation to have.