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49th precinct safest in city

Bronx Times

Consider the 49th Precinct the safest in the city.

Serving Pelham Parkway, Van Nest, Allerton and Morris Park, the Four-Nine saw major crime plummet 27.97% in the first six months of this year compared to last year, according to NYPD stats.

In all, percentage figures showed triple and double-digit drops in all of its seven major categories, ranging from murder to grand larceny auto, a feat Captain Lorenzo Johnson credited solely to his crimefighters.

“It’s not me, it’s the guys,” said Johnson, who arrived to the precinct 13 months ago, replacing Deputy Inspector Kevin Nicholson.

And while the crime drop is well celebrated in a precinct longtime locals nicknamed a “country club precinct,” it still had to deal with a jump in shooting incidents and victims, which increased from eight and five respectively over the same period last year to 13 and 12 respectively this year..

“The spike in shootings is concerning,” said Johnson. “But I expect a lot of arrests to be made.”

A number of those shootings were at the Pelham Houses off Pelham Parkway and Parkside Houses by E. Gun Hill Rd., bordering the 47th Precinct. Van Nest, at the south end of the precinct was also a shooting hotspot.

Still, Johnson has brought crime figures down by honing in on “criminals who commit serious crime” while use of the NYPD’s controversial stop-question-and-frisk tactic is “down drastically.”

Technology

One surprising increase is arrests for driving with a suspended license, up nearly 100%, from 181 at the same time last year to 356. That was thanks in large part to aggresive traffic stops and use of a high-tech license plate reader.

“That LPR can run a thousand license plates in one second,” said Johnson.

Social media tools like Facebook have also helped officers identify known crews, which post their tags - and often their criminal exploits.

Community Policing

Johnson credits the cornerstone of the precinct’s successes to strong ties with community residents, many of whom regularly attend the monthly precinct community council meetings.

Involved residents have become the precinct’s extra set of eyes and ears, he said, supplying tips to officers.

“The 49th Precinct is very lucky we have a community that cares,” said Johnson, who is a regular attendee at a number of community group meetings.

“It’s no longer a country club precinct,” said Edith Blitzer, head of Pelham Parkway Neighborhood Association. “Captain Johnson makes them work their butts off.”

Keith Ramsey, head of the tenants association at the troubled Parkside Houses, has noticed precinct community affairs officers heavily involved with tenants.

“It’s not just about arrests,” said Ramsey. “It’s more like social work.”

Looking Ahead

Maintaining quality of life will continue to be high on his agenda as the Four-Nine enters the second half of 2013, said Johnson, who believes in handling low-level offenses to prevent larger infractions.

“If you keep a pristine house,” he noted, “you won’t have any garbage.”

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

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CNG: Community Newspaper Group