PUBLISHED BY MOSHOLU PRESERVATION CORPORATION

Vol. 20,  No. 1 Jan. 11 - 24,  2007



     
 

Area Crime, Murders Drop in 2006
Intensive Foot Patrol Program Returns in ‘07

By ALEX KRATZ

Mirroring the rest of New York City, the 52nd Precinct experienced a significant overall drop in crime this past year. Unlike the city, however, the Five-Two also enjoyed a sharp decline in murders after a homicide-heavy first half of 2006.

Crime in the Five-Two, which is contiguous with Community Board 7 and the Norwood News readership area, dropped 8 percent overall, compared to 5 percent citywide.

The 52nd Precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Joseph Hoch, attributes much of his squad’s success to an influx of foot-patrolling rookie cops, who were assigned to three heavy crime areas as part of the city’s Impact Zone initiative last July.

Hoch is especially happy about the drop in murders, which went from 17 in 2005 to 13 in 2006. That’s a 23 percent decrease from the year before and a welcome development for Hoch, who watched the murder rate double in 2005, following the previous low of only eight homicides in 2004.

“I’m happy because I really gauge myself and my performance on the homicide numbers,” Hoch said.

Homicides in New York City spiked 10 percent in 2006 from the year before.

It wasn’t so much the murders, but the sharp increase in shootings that prompted the return of the Impact initiative in the five-two this past summer after a year’s hiatus. There were 19 shootings by mid-year 2006 (21 before Impact arrived) versus just seven by mid-year in 2005 (when Impact was in place). In total, shootings jumped from 27 in 2005 to 35 this past year.

Bill McDonald, a former police detective and federal agent who is now head of Monroe College’s Criminal Justice school, says manpower-intensive initiatives like Impact zones are effective because they make criminals think twice about carrying a gun around.

Much like a motorist will not speed if he sees increased police presence on the streets, McDonald says, a criminal will not carry his gun for fear of being stopped and searched. If a criminal leaves his gun at home, McDonald says, he won’t be able to react to confrontational situations by simply brandishing his weapon. A bad drug deal, for example, will then result in a fistfight rather than a gun fight.

Impact will continue in the 52nd Precinct for the first half of 2007 (as part of a citywide plan to implement more Impact zones), Hoch said, but the zones will shift. There will be two new Impact zones, he said. One will be on the Fordham Road corridor from University Avenue to the Grand Concourse. The other will exist between 183rd and 184th streets stretching from Jerome Avenue to University Avenue.

After losing 20 officers from the previous Impact initiative, the Five-Two recently gained 40 new academy graduates for the new Impact zones.

To continue Impact-like practices in the old zones, or O.Z.s, Hoch will keep a smaller amount of foot patrols going. Before, when Impact would shift or stop, he would simply augment the O.Z.s with car patrols, which proved ineffective.

In any case, the murder stats would look even better, Hoch said, but an incident that happened two years ago was reclassified as a murder this year. There were 38 such reclassified murders added to the homicide toll in New York City, which accounts for much of the city increase.

Hoch points to three unusual deaths registered in his command. In the death of two children at the beginning of the year, parents were charged with murder, for abuse, negligence, or both.

In domestic cases especially, a police force is only as good as its informants, Hoch said, adding that a phone call from a family member, neighbor or friend may have prevented deaths in both of those cases, Hoch said.

Another murder happened in Yonkers, but the body was dropped in the Five-Two, making it Hoch’s responsibility, he said.

Drugs continue to be a major obstacle for Hoch’s crew in its struggle to keep murders down.

“Most of our murders are narcotics related,” Hoch said.

In 2006, drug arrests were up 9.3 percent from the year before. Marijuana, heroin and crack are the drugs of choice in the 52nd precinct, Hoch said.

Shootings, murders or drug arrests aren’t always the best indicators of how effective a precinct is or how bad crime has become, McDonald said.

The two best statistics to accurately gauge crime in a given area are auto thefts and robberies, McDonald said. Both crimes are traditionally reported accurately by victims mostly because of insurance considerations.

Using this logic, crime statistics in the Five-Two paint a murky picture. While obberies are up 7.2 percent, car theft is down an astonishing 28 percent.

Hoch couldn’t point to any consistent or specific trends to explain the increase in robberies, but said the drop in car thefts could probably be attributed to the busts of two citywide car theft syndicates.

By any measure, the city and the northwest Bronx are much safer than during the crack-fueled violence of the early 1990s, Hoch and McDonald said. In 1993, there were 43 murders and 82 shootings in the Five-Two. Robberies then were triple what they were in 2006.


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