BY LUCAS ROPEK | A handful of locals turned out at the Ninth Precinct Community Council meeting on Tues., Feb. 16 to hear Deputy Inspector Peter Venice speak on the topic of local crime and safety, despite a torrential downpour earlier in the evening.
“Thank you everybody for coming out on this very rainy, dreary day,” Venice said, before giving some good news.
The precinct’s crime rate is down 27 percent over all for the month. Specifically, robberies are down 57 percent, felony assaults are down 46 percent, burglaries are down 25 percent, and grand larceny is down 24 percent. The only spike, said Venice, was stolen vehicles — five this month, compared with only one during the previous month. The precinct’s crime rate is down 5 percent over all for the year.
Most of the crimes in the precinct have been grand larceny — the result of people leaving their property (often credit cards) somewhere and it being stolen.
An I.R.S. scam has also been going around, in which residents are being called and told that they owe back taxes and have to send money or they will be arrested. Phishing scams like this are quite common during tax season, and Venice clarified the situation for residents.
“The I.R.S. does not solicit money over the phone,” he explained. “If you have an issue with the I.R.S., they are not going to call you up and say, ‘Send us a check.’ So just be aware of that.”
Violent crimes are also down. The case of Julian DeJesus, 25 — a mentally unstable man from the Jacob Riis Houses who was shot and wounded by police on Jan. 26, after charging them with a knife — is the only violent incident the precinct has experienced during the past month.
Otherwise, January and February have seen no major criminal activity.
“In the last month there have been no robbery patterns or burglary patterns,” Venice affirmed.
Despite the mostly good news, some locals still expressed safety concerns.
In particular, several residents brought up the rash of slashing and knife attacks that have plagued the city for the past few months. Officers sympathized with residents’ concerns while noting that the slashings are random, and therefore, no single prescription exists to combat or avoid them.
Another resident alerted officers to the fact that transients have been camping under the scaffolding surrounding the Immaculate Conception School’s entrances on E. 14th St. near First Ave. The sidewalk bridges’ presence is causing congestion during the children’s dismissal time from 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
“We don’t want to call 911 and get people arrested,” a resident said, expressing sympathy for the homeless, yet also conceding that they had become a problem. It was agreed upon that several officers would be sent over during dismissal time and the transients would be asked to leave.
The meeting concluded with a short announcement by Brian McCullough, a community outreach coordinator with the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, who notified residents that the C.C.R.B. is stepping up its involvement with local organizations.
“If there’s a captive audience, we’ll be there,” he said, explaining how the C.C.R.B. would be connecting with schools, civil service agencies, youth and probation groups, churches, community boards, L.G.B.T. groups and many others.
The C.C.R.B. is empowered to receive, investigate and mediate complaints against police officers alleging the use of excessive or unnecessary force, abuse of authority, discourtesy or the use of offensive language. Interactions between police and communities of color, in particular, are a key issue for the board.
McCullough explained that the agency has made several recent changes. A policy unit was established last summer that makes recommendations to local police precincts on how to improve officers’ interactions with local communities. In addition, the agency’s investigator unit has been restructured to better help resolve citizens’ complaints.
“Over all, the rate of complaints we’ve been receiving has been going down, but our rate of resolution of those complaints has gone up,” he said.
McCullough also notified residents that the board’s meetings are public and that the community is welcome to attend.