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70th hails stats - 31 fewer victims of crimes this year

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While 2008 may have gotten off to a bit of a slow start for the 70th Precinct, crime is now down approximately three percent for the year.

Deputy Inspector Ralph Monteforte, the precinct’s commanding officer, told members of Community Board 14 – gathered at the board office, 810 East 16th Street for the June Police and Public Safety Committee meeting – that the reduction meant that, across the precinct, there had been 31 fewer victims of the seven major crimes tracked by the FBI so far this year.

“This year, 1,008 people have been victims,” Monteforte noted, citing the statistics as of June 8th. “Last year, that was 1,039 people.” The crimes included in the seven major categories are murder, rape, robbery, felonious assault, burglary, grand larceny and grand larceny auto.

There has also been a 40 percent reduction in the number of shooting victims in the precinct, he said. This year, there have been seven so far, compared with 12 at this point last year, Monteforte told the group.

The three percent decline in the seven major crime categories, noted Monteforte, is in keeping with the city as a whole. As of June 8th, crime had gone down 3.14 percent in the city overall. Murders, rapes and robberies are up citywide from 2007; the remaining crime categories have seen decreases citywide.

Of all the categories, the largest decrease in the 70th Precinct has been in felonious assaults, which are down 28.9 percent for the year, with 150 so far in 2008 compared with 211 at this time in 2007.

Also way down in the precinct are burglaries, which have been reduced 17.4 percent, year to date. There have been 166 so far in 2008, compared with 201 in 2007.

Other crime categories have all seen increases in the 70th Precinct. There has been a 50 percent increase in the number of murders, with three so far this year, compared with two at this point last year. Also up are rapes, 12.5 percent, with 18 year to date as opposed to 16 at this point in 2007.

Robberies are also up; there have been 230 in the precinct so far in 2008, compared with 195 at this time in 2007, for a 17.9 percent rise.

Finally, grand larcenies and grand larceny auto are also up, the former by 6.7 percent, the latter by 5.3 percent. There have been 362 grand larcenies in the precinct so far in 2008, compared with 339 at this time in 2007. There have been 79 GLAs, compared with 75 last year at this time.

Monteforte said that the precinct’s robbery and grand larceny numbers are both affected by a problem that the precinct is currently having, namely the theft of popular cell phones, specifically Sidekicks, from youngsters who are using them. He added, “There are things the Police Department is doing to try to make that number lower.”

Monteforte said he was looking ahead to making changes to reduce crime more. He said he was requesting additional officers to expand the precinct’s impact zone when the next Police Academy class graduates.

In addition, he told the committee, he had asked for additional on-street surveillance cameras for Church Avenue, at East 18th Street, Ocean Avenue and Church Avenue.

“I think we’re very fortunate in the 70th Precinct that we have a lot of the cameras,” Monteforte noted. “They’re on 24 hours a day. They’re almost like the eyes of the city. The more cameras out there, the better it is for us. We want people to know where the cameras are so if something happens in the neighborhood, they will come to us.”

In his talk, Monteforte stressed that he focuses on quality-of-life issues as well as crime.

“I want people in the community to be happy,” he explained. He also noted, “I want the relationship between the community and the Police Department to continue to get better.”

To that end, he said, he had scheduled a meeting with local clergy leaders, of whom there are over 100, for the end of this month. “I think that’s one of the fastest way I can get my message out,” he remarked.

One issue that Monteforte said he is tackling head-on is nighttime noise. “I’m a little concerned with noise complaints on weekends,” he told the group. For this reason, he said, he had put together a team of one sergeant and five police officers “to handle them.”

Board member Ernest Skinner expressed concern that there be “cultural sensitivity” in the enforcement of noise complaints.

Monteforte responded that he had decided to put the group together so that such issues could be handled in a balanced fashion. To a large degree, he said, whether or not to issue a summons is a matter of discretion.

“If there’s a party where there’s a DJ in the backyard and the house is shaking and babies are crying, I can’t have that,” Monteforte told Skinner. “My goal is that the officers go there and use their judgment. When we go to a house party, we realize that someone is not going to be happy when we leave. That’s why I want one sergeant and five police officers doing it all summer. Hopefully they are going to make the right decision every time.”

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