Grand larcenies in Chelsea increased by 50 percent since 2018, police say

A police car has been stationed on Eighth Avenue and W. 20th Street to prevent drug activity in the area. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

BY GABE HERMAN | Grand larcenies have skyrocketed 50 percent from the previous year in Chelsea, according to the NYPD’s 10th Precinct.

Police officers met with local residents on Oct. 8 to discuss issues that included drug activity and quality of life issues related to homelessness, and said that the increases in grand larcenies are, in part, due to nightlife around 16th Street, where people often stagger out drunk late at night.

“There’s people that want to take advantage of that,” Neighborhood Coordination Officer Samuel Baez-Veras said.

Thieves will wait outside and pretend to help people or hail a taxi for them —meanwhile they’re going through their pockets, the officers said.

“Try to be vigilant, and use a buddy system,” Baez-Veras said.

There is also an ongoing problem with package thefts from apartment buildings and officers said they have spoken with superintendents about providing a secure area in lobbies, like a cage or other space that needs key access.

“It will be a safer area than to just leave them,” Baez-Veras said. People were also told not to let any unknown people into buildings, especially late at night.

Bicycle and electric bike thefts have also been a trend in the neighborhood because people often lock their bikes but leave the seat exposed, which can be lifted off in a matter of seconds, officers said.

The meeting also included a follow-up discussion about drug dealing and heavy drug use around Rainbow Station, an adult entertainment store at 203 Eighth Ave. between West 20 and 21 Streets. Police have set up a fixed post there, with officers stationed in a police car to ward off drug activity on Eighth Avenue.

Some residents said that drug dealing can still be seen, sometimes near the cop car, and also that much of the drug activity has simply moved off of Eighth Avenue and to the nearby side streets.

Acknowledging that drug activity has continued away from Eighth Avenue, Baez-Veras said, “now we have to figure out how to flood the side streets as well.”

Sgt. Ahmed Deeb said that he would tell the officers stationed on Eighth Avenue to get out of the car and patrol the area, to prevent activity on nearby streets as well.

Officer Baez-Veras assured community members that the drug problem wouldn’t be solved right away, but that the precinct is working to fix the issue, including investigations and more foot patrol.

Officers have also been doing homeless outreach with Goddard Services, which offers food and shelter — though nine out of 10 homeless people decline the offer, Baez Veras said.

Police have also been issuing summonses for homeless people seen breaking the law — for urination, defecation or littering in public usually along Eighth Avenue from West 18 to West 21 Streets — but they said a summons can’t always be issued. Instead the homeless are offered help and services.