Phone thefts rise as Bronx crime declines

Burglaries in Captain John Greeley’s 49th Precinct fell from 398 in 2007 to 352 in 2008. Photo by Victor Chu

Economic woes aside, the Bronx suffered less crime in 2008.

Felony assaults, burglaries, grand larcenies and carjackings are down, according to statistics published by the police department.

In 2008, the borough played host to nine percent fewer felony assaults, ten percent fewer burglaries, three percent fewer grand larcenies and two percent fewer auto thefts.

Bronx murders and rapes stayed even, compared with 2007. Only one crime category jumped; precincts borough-wide reported more robberies.

Robberies peaked in the fall, said 49th Precinct captain John Greeley. Cell phone toting teenagers were targeted.

“We had an issues with robberies,” Greeley, who joined the 49th in August, admitted. “But we nipped that in the bud. We made a lot of robbery arrests after the spike.”

The 49th Precinct finished the year at 348 robberies, 41 more than in 2007. In keeping with borough-wide trends, burglaries in Greeley’s precinct fell from 398 to 352.

“Each year, another task,” the captain said. “In 2008, we focused on a core group of criminals. We locked up one guy responsible for burglaries in the Morris Park area, a recidivist. His arrest alone helped ensure a reduction.”

In 2008, the 49th Precinct recorded seven murders, one more than in 2007.

Fewer murders occurred in the 45th Precinct: four, down from six in 2007. Rapes, robberies and burglaries rose in the 45th. Felony assaults, however, fell 46 percent.

“I believe the police in our precinct are doing a very good job,” said Bill Heaney, president of the 45th Precinct’s community council.

Heaney thanked his neighbors for reporting crimes in 2008.

“That’s why felony assaults are down,” he said.

Hand-held electronics are part of the borough’s robbery dilemma.

“In 2008, we dealt with a lot of youth on youth crime,” said Thompson. “These iPods and cell phones are valuable.”

Heaney agreed.

“Cell phones are a must nowadays,” he said. “I understand. Just don’t talk on your way to the train. Put the device away.”

Nationwide, there is talk of the economic recession driving up crime. But it will take quite a crash for the Bronx to backslide. In 1990, the borough experienced 653 murders, 644 rapes and 17,862 robberies. In 2008, there were 132 murders, 312 rapes and only 4,790 robberies.

Greeley is betting the recession won’t generate a crime wave in 2009. The 2008 case he won’t soon forget: 15-year old Sharell Butler’s alleged December slaying of two Bronx men.

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