amNY series, day two: Little things mean a lot
The writing may be literally on the walls.
Graffiti arrests and incidents are rising and many are concerned that this, and other quality-of-life crimes, will increase next year with fewer police on the streets.
The officers we have are focused on serious crime and as a result quality-of-life crimes are up, said City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Queens), chair of the councils public safety committee.Graffiti and overall noise complaints remain at historic lows, and city figures show streets are cleaner than theyve been in 30 years. However, statistics also show requests for graffiti cleanup are more than double what they were last year.
Vallone wants to see more cops on the street.
"Youd have to be really thick headed to not understand that more police officers means less crime," Vallone said.
He and others have proposed money-saving alternatives to canceling the next police academy class, including getting money from tort reform in Albany, implementing fees for companies that put cell phone antennas on top of buildings and restoring a tax on commuters.
"There are other ways to raise money," he said. "The Police Department should be the last place to cut."
City statistics show slight increases in complaints concerning private trash collectors, residential and commercial noise and complaints about homeless encampments. Some officials attribute the boost in quality-of-life complaints to the popularity of 311about a million more calls came in during fiscal 2008 compared to the year before.
However, when enough people sense a subtle shift -- one too many aggressive panhandlers, increased delays for trains, reports of muggings in the neighborhood -- the positive view of city life can turn.
"If there's a perception that your basic services are not being maintained, people really notice that and it really affects the quality of life and it's going to give people pause about staying here," said Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center for an Urban Future.
Lynette Willis stays away from a certain street corner in Fort Greene section of Brooklyn late at night because she knows she will be bothered.
Theres been a lot of drug addicts panhandling, being rude, throwing bottles, said Willis, 31.
Jennifer Garofolo, 40, who lives in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, knows all too well about the plague of dealing with annoying, routine problems. She repeatedly calls the police about noise and public drunkenness and is worried about a few vacant storefronts giving the area a dingier feel.
Police only respond some of the time, and she worries about the possibilities of having fewer officers on the streets next year.
If the police dont respond at all, its a free for all, she said.
Rolando Pujol contributed to this report.