While overall crime rates remain relatively steady in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, Deputy Inspection Anthony Tasso said the 88th Precinct has been going through some “rough times” over the last couple of weeks, particularly when it comes to theft.
The two neighborhoods continue to be some of the safest in the city, but robbery and grand larceny complaints have nearly doubled since the same time last year, Inspector Tasso said at the 88th Precinct Community Council meeting on Tuesday night. Much of this type of crime has been driven by youths and the main targets have been electronic devices—specifically the Apple iPhone. There were 39 robberies over last month, Inspector Tasso said, and 20 of them were iPhones.
Inspector Tasso urged people to be more vigilant, to avoid exposing Apple’s signature white headphones and to register their electronic devices with the NYPD’s Operation ID program. Information on how to activate the GPS tracker “Find My iPhone” and other crime prevention tips can be found in brochures that are being distributed throughout both neighborhoods.
“I don’t want to see litter on the streets of Fort Greene,” Inspector Tasso said, “But hopefully you’re tripping over them.”
The cell phone robberies have been scattered all across the precinct, though police said they have seen a repeating pattern in Fort Greene Park. There were five gun-point robberies over the last two weeks, Inspector Tasso said. They all happened near the top of the hill, between the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument and the Brooklyn Hospital Center. The precinct has stepped up the amount of plainclothes officer in the area, so as to not displace the crime elsewhere by the presence of uniform cops, Inspector Tasso said.
Cyclist Steve Arthur was at the meeting to give a statement regarding an incident on August 12 at the Navy Street pedestrian overpass, which connects the Walt Whitman and Ingersoll housing developments. He was biking home from work around 6:30 p.m., when a brick was thrown from the overpass, hitting him in the face and puncturing his cheek.
Another cyclist riding behind Mr. Arthur noticed a group of teens running from the overpass as the brick was thrown. No one was arrested, though representatives for Transportation Alternatives and community members said the overpass has been a problem spot where youths regularly toss rocks, bottles and water balloons.
This might be another case of “kids being kids,” Inspector Tasso said, adding that he had not received many more complaints about the area. The police department is working with the New York City Housing Authority to step up surveillance at the overpass, he said.
Councilwoman Letitia James stepped in to say that she has spoke with the New York City Department of Transportation and they have agreed to renovate the area in the next year, raising the height of the overpass and asking neighborhood children to paint a mural.
The Councilwoman also suggested that the increase in youth crime might be “a sign of the times.” Inspector Tasso agreed, saying this has been the most challenging period of his 18 years on the force. Like most New York City departments the NYPD has undergone major budget cuts.
“These are very challenging times and unfortunately, we are trying to do as much as we can with less,” Councilwoman James said. “What [the residents] have to do is be the eyes and ears for NYPD because they have lost over 5,000 members as a result of attrition and lay-offs.”
There are currently 34,500 NYPD officers, down from the all-time high of 40,864 a decade ago. However, overall crime rates however are down 25 percent from ten years ago and national surveys show that a larger police force doesn’t necessarily mean a lower crime rate. Philadelphia and Chicago both have a larger per capita police force than New York City, but also higher crime rates.
“Everyone is hurting and now we’re seeing the effects,” Councilwoman James said. “First thing we need is to get our streets in order.”
Although Inspector Tasso said Fort Greene and Clinton Hill are some of the safest neighborhoods in the city, a recent study applying a controversial methodology ranked the precinct as the city’s sixth most dangerous. Check back later today for a story on the ranking and local reaction to it.
The next Community Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. A location for the meeting will be determined and released by the 88th Precinct next month.