The Bronx is beginning to reap the rewards of dramatic drops in crime, the lowest they’ve been since the Sixties and after climbing out of the crime-wracked crack epidemic of the early 90s.
Borough business and other leaders say the reward has been new growth in small to medium businesses, as well as early signs of an influx of working and middle class singles and families taking advantage of moderate rents in neighborhoods once seen as too dangerous.
Despite large remaining stubborn areas of poverty, with inevitable crime, murders and shootings are down in the low numbers and double digit percentages. Rapes and robberies have tumbled also.
Only felony assaults show an uptick, with some opinions that better medical treatment is saving shooting victims from becoming a murder statistic, while police take domestic violence more seriously these days than in the past.
Even some once high-crime precincts, such as the 44th in Highbridge and the 42nd in Morrisania ranked 45th and 61st respectively for crime reduction among the city’s 76 precincts. The 49th Precinct in Morris Park/Allerton area ranked dead last, with a 28% crime drop.
The crime reduction has not been without controversy, as the NYPD’s Stop-Question-and Frisk program has come under fire including a federal lawsuit, while the City Council recently passed a bill that would severely limit so-called profiling of suspects by cops.
Unfortunately, as sympathetic critics of the program have pointed out, rookies were flooded into Operation Impact zones in precinct hot spots without proper training and a sharp reminder of the department’s motto of Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect.
Bronx Borough Commander, Assistant Chief Carlos Gomez, emphasized that “Stop and frisk will always be a valuable tool for us – where used appropriately. We instill it at precinct roll calls – ‘Do it right!’”
He also credits a focus by cops and local and federal prosecutors on street gangs and crews – “responsible for over 30% of the shootings in the Bronx” – for the dramatic crime decreases.
While some have expressed concern the crime reduction has gone as low as it can go across the city, especially with a reduced number of cops through budget cuts and attrition, Gomez said he’s optimistic cops can drive those numbers even lower.
“We can always improve, and that is our goal,” he said. “My mission is to continue that trend.”
The borough’s business and civic leaders are cheering cops on for the rewards they are seeing in more sales and new residents moving in, caused by a safer feeling in the borough.
“Although the NYPD draws a lot of criticism for the stop and frisk, we are fortunate to have one of the best police departments in the country,” said John Small, a retired NYPD sergeant and now professor at the borough’s Monroe College School of Criminal Justice. “The fact that the murder stats are down 37% in the Bronx is an indicator that other crime categories are down, which also brings more confidence to the people who want to live and do business in the communities.”
“No ifs, ands or buts about it, we already have amazing size apartments, great parks, but we needed that last crime number to let young people know they could move to the Bronx,” said Marlene Cintron, head of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp.
“I’ve got hipsters in my building,” said Cintron, who lives on the lower Grand Concourse.
“Local businesses are also coming into the neighborhoods because they can make money,” she added. “I’ve been pulling out these great crime numbers and letting them talk to other businesses to see for themselves.”
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. seconded her thoughts.
“The Bronx is making great progress. Crime is down and at its lowest since 1963. Our streets are cleaner, our infrastructure is amazing and our economy is growing,” he said.