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Bronxites take back the night on National Night Out

Bronx Times

This year’s National Night Out couldn’t have come at a more critical time in the borough.

From Mott Haven to Pelham Parkway and Co-op City, residents poured into common areas on Tuesday, August 7 pushing for a better quality-of-life.

Each precinct sponsored free festitivies.

Within the 40th Precinct, a Mott Haven park known for nighttime drug deals and gunfights became a family-friendly venue to strengthen ties between cops and the community.

Salsa music blared from a stage at St. Mary’s Park, kids snapped pictures with McGruff the Crime Dog and outreach groups lined the playground.

It was a celebration of sorts for the 40th Precinct, which saw crime drop nearly 9 percent so far this year.

“It has gotten better,” said Lydia Martinez, a 27-year resident of NYCHA’s Paterson Houses, thrilled to see more cops walking the local beat.

“We’re going to keep driving crime down here,” said Mayor Bloomberg, who stopped by with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to announce plans to send 40 more cops to the precinct.

But while major crime in the 40th is down, gun violence is still an ongoing issue for the area covering Mott Haven, Port Morris and Melrose, with 46 people shot so far this year. “There’s still way too many guns, there’s still way too many people looking to use those guns,” said Kelly.

Among the recent shooting victims within the Bronx was 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan, a Morrisania child killed as he was caught in the crossfire between two rivals at the Forest Houses. Baychester resident Kemar Brooks was killed by gunfire while playing tennis in Haffen Park.

A nationwide crime prevention event, National Night Out stretches back to 1984 with 2.5 million people participating. Now the event has balloned to 37 million people in over 15,000 communities from all 50 states.

The 45th Precinct held its National Night Out at the Section 5 Greenway in Co-op City, over 1,200 people showing up.

The event helps the community and the police realize that any precinct cannot be effective without the help and cooperation of the community, said 45th Precinct Community Council president Robert Bieder.

“The relationships between police and community has been strained over the years with things like stop and frisk going on, and in many communities unfortunately, people are often afraid of the police,” said Bieder. “The night strengthens the bond between the police and the residents by having them spending time together, sharing experiences, having the police be available and letting everyone see that the police are people.”

The 45th Precinct’s included Councilman Jimmy Vacca speaking about the reduction of police officers citywide and the effect it is having on policing at the 45th Precinct’s night out.

There is an old adage that the police officer is your friend, and National Night Out allows people to feel that sentiment, said Bieder.

“You need these kind of events with the people and the community,” said Bieder. “People need to see the police up close and personal, interact with them, and feel comfortable.”

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383. Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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