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Borough crime decline leads city

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The Big, Bad Boogie Down Bronx, looked upon for decades as a crime-ridden borough, is seeing crimes drop in numbers never imagined even a decade ago.

From a peak of 653 murder victims in 1990, the borough logged only 82 homicides in 2013, an 87.5 % drop.

It even led the city in percent decreases in murders and shootings for the past two years.

With a new enforcement focus on local “street crews,” as well as established gangs, victim shootings are down almost 30% over 2012, with 346 people shot last year.

“That means 148 less people were shot last year. That’s amazing,” said Assistant Chief Carlos Gomez, the Bronx borough commander, adding that the crime decline also meant 31 less murders from 2012.

“war zone”

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said he remembers when he was in his late teens 20 or so years ago growing up in Soundview. “It was a war zone then, while today’s crime numbers are 70% lower.”

What’s worth noting, he added, “is not only are we doing well as a borough, but the Bronx helped the city on overall major crime reductions,” with higher percentages of crime reduction in homicides, shooting victims and shooting incidents.

Besides crediting good police work, Diaz attributed a safer borough “to the serious, hardworking people of the Bronx – people are bringing their values from their native countries, folks are behaving, parents are doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Targeting crews

From a police point of view, Gomez credits much of the drop in violence to Operation Crew Cut, which targets less established local “street crews,” believed responsible for “at least” 30 percent of shootings and murders. Both state and federal prosecutions against the crews, he said, are having a major impact.

“One murder is one too many, but to come in with 31 less than the record year - we can’t go that far back to check - is great.”

But Gomez said Bronx cops are not resting on any laurels – “As we take down existing crews, we see new emerging ones.”

Felony assaults were the only violent crime that rose last year, up 12.4%, with 5,413 incidents recorded. Gomez attributed a large number of those to domestic violence.

Gomez said he hopes to step up early intervention in domestic violence cases, with each precinct having a designated officer assigned to follow up and monitor such situations – “especially to new immigrants and to high propensity offenders who have a history of domestic violence, through home visits to make sure the women feel safe.”

A number of felony assaults, police have long pointed out, might have wound up as murder statistics but for better medical treatment of traumas, much of it learned from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Targeting violence

“The focus in 2014 will still be the violence,” said Gomez “ – the shootings, the robberies, domestic violence.”

One of the non-violent sticking points has been grand larcenies involving cell phones and laptops, as well as expensive parts from vehicles, with 5,952 felony complaints reported – a 7.7% hike from 2012. Along with the felony assaults, they marred the borough’s overall crime drop, bringing it in with a 1.19 percent increase in overall major crime.

The police department last year seriously curtailed its controversial Stop, Question and Frisk program, which figured largely in the mayoral race and left a permanent stain on former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s record.

The last three police academy graduation classes, Gomez noted, all received additional training in stop and frisk procedures.

It will still figure in as crime fighting tool, he predicted, “though one used more smartly than in the past.”

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To view the borough’s crime statistics, go to www.nypd.org.

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