Police Commissioner Ray Kelly came to Bushwick last week to deliver good news about the long-term reduction in crime citywide while community members demanded more officers patrolling their neighborhood blocks.
“In Bushwick and Williamsburg, crime is way down. The crime index is key to the revitalization of North Brooklyn,” said Assemblymember Vito Lopez, whose organization Brooklyn Unidos and the Ridgewood Bushwick Youth Education Center hosted the commissioner.
Last year, the city experienced the lowest level of homicides, 496, in the past 25 years, which is among the lowest homicide rates among major cities in the US. In the 83rd Precinct, homicides are up 8.3 percent but rapes are down 47.3 percent since 2001. During the same period, robberies are down 21.4 percent, felony assaults are down 29.2 percent, and burglaries are down 8.6 percent, though grand larcenies have increased 38.9 percent.
“Since this administration, crime is down 30 percent, even though there are 5,000 fewer police officers in the Police Department since 2001,” Kelly said. “Our Counter Terrorism program, which utilizes 1000 police officers a day, is the best in the world.”
According to Kelly, one of the most significant concerns of the NYPD is to reduce the number of illegal guns on New York’s streets. The Police Department created a Firearms Suppression Division and has widely promoted its marketing campaign for handing out a reward for anyone giving information about an illegal handgun if it leads to a suspect’s arrest.
“Young people seem willing to settle disputes with finality with guns,” Kelly said.
The allocation of crime prevention resources and the dispersal of officers on Bushwick’s streets was a concern of several community residents. Maritza Davilla, an organizer with the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and president of the Northern Bushwick Residents Association, thanked members of the 83rd Precinct for apprehending a perpetrator committing an attempted rape and urged the assignment of more officers to cover her neighborhood.
“Our precinct is doing everything they can, however we are having a huge increase in gang activity,” Davilla said. “Please deploy more officers in our community, especially in areas where there is a large presence of gang membership.”
83rd Precinct Community Council President Barbara Smith echoed Davilla’s concerns, while also raising the issue that calls to 311, the city’s information hotline, about criminal activity are not confidential.
“311 has been great for a lot of things,” Kelly said. “If you call the Police Department directly, you’ll have a lot more sensitivity to those issues.”
Kelly wrote down the concerns of community members, particularly those involving police presence, and promised that the implementation of new programs such as the IRP Mobile Impact Group will help reduce criminal activity in Bushwick.
Despite the deployment of additional forces for specific events recently, such as the Puerto Rican Day Parade festivities held last Sunday, a sustained increase could be more difficult until the NYPD is able to recruit more police officers. The starting salary of first-year police officers was reduced from $40,000 to $25,000 annually.
“As you know, this is the most expensive city in America and we hope to increase salary to $36,000 per year,” Kelly said.