Thieves working overtime in the 50th

Grand larceny, burglary and robbery increase sharply in the greater Riverdale communities

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Theft has been skyrocketing in the 50th precinct. Jewelry. Checks. Cell phones. Wallets. Tools. Car parts. Even pet food. You name it, and thieves are not only stealing it, but stealing it more often.   

Even though there are still three and half months left to go in 2022, there have already been more burglaries, robberies and grand larcenies this year in the precinct than there were in 2021. That year there were a combined 416 robberies, grand larcenies and burglaries. So far this year, there have already been 684.

According to the New York Police Department’s crime statistics, there has been a 54 percent increase in grand larcenies this year compared to the last, a 66 percent increase in burglaries, and a 112 percent increase in robberies.

In fact, robberies are at a 20-year high. The last time there were this many in a year was back in 2002. For grand larcenies, this is the highest number ever seen since the NYPD began publishing its crime statistics back in 1993.

Some in the area have taken note and are getting worried.

“I never used to, but now I think about where I’m going,” long-time resident Susan Jacobs said after a recent violent robbery close to her home. “I think about whether or not it’s going to be light out. I think about getting home. It’s a terrible feeling. It seems like everybody today has a gun.”

“Vehicular accessories,” or stolen car parts, have been the most common items snatched this year. Of the 454 grand larcenies within the precinct, 124 of them came from that category alone. Those who read The Riverdale Press Police Beat column know that every month, without fail, catalytic converters are stolen from cars in the area.

The car part, which helps reduce a vehicle’s harmful emissions, is a hot commodity as thieves, who are able to remove the car part in less than five minutes, can make a pretty penny selling the metal on the second-hand market. 

Yet at least one person in the city council is trying to bring that practice to a swift end. Just this month, Councilman Justin Brannan introduced a bill that would prohibit scrap metal shops from buying and selling used catalytic converters.

“This is happening all over the country,” Brannan told The Press These catalytic converter thieves are pros. They work in small groups like a NASCAR pit crew and in under 5 minutes, they’ve stolen your catalytic converter.

“Cops can’t be everywhere at all times. The only way to put an end to this is by prohibiting the scrap metal dealers from purchasing catalytic converters in the first place. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to know if a guy comes in looking to sell 10 catalytic converters that they’re all stolen.”

While theft-related crimes have been on the rise throughout the city, neighboring precincts have not seen an attendant spike.

In the 52nd precinct — which covers neighborhoods like Bedford Park, Fordham and Norwood — burglaries, grand larcenies and robberies are all down. If these crimes continue at the rate they have through the rest of the year, then this year’s numbers will be on par, or below, those in previous years. The same goes for the 47th, which covers neighborhoods to the east.

Citywide theft numbers are up though. Comparing July of last year to July of this year, there was a 40 percent increase in grand larceny (4,588 to 3,262), a 37 percent increase in robbery (1,730 to 1,261), and a 25 percent rise in burglary (1,325 to 1,055).

“We know that any crime increase in our city is wholly unacceptable,” said Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell in a statement. “Everyone who lives, works, and visits here deserves to be safe, and the members of the NYPD will tolerate nothing less.”

Still, there is some good news. The murder rate throughout the city dropped 54 percent in August 2022 compared to August 2021. In fact, that marks the fourth-lowest number of shootings for any August since the NYPD began utilizing CompStat.

The department has been quick to praise itself for these numbers, saying the drop is due in part to its anti-gun initiatives.

“The NYPD’s array of strategies to remove illegal firearms from the streets is gaining traction as reflected in the department’s seizing more than 4,880 guns year-to-date in 2022,” read a recent press release.

“Our gun seizures and gun arrests in August  — and the corresponding downturn in shooting incidents — indicate a positive corner turn in our fight to stop criminals willing to carry illegal guns and brazenly use them,” the commissioner said in a statement.

Neither the communications department at the NYPD nor the 50th Precinct would grant an interview with The Press to discuss what accounts for the spike in theft or what its officers are doing to try and combat this trend.

Yet in that same press release, the commissioner did imply what the department believes may be to blame.:

“We know there is much more work to be done to address crime in our city. We must push forward as we continue to advocate for further refinements to the state’s well-meaning criminal justice reforms that too many recidivists and violent criminals exploit.”