Residents urge cops to rein in reckless drivers
Mott Haven’s violent crime rate came way down in 2012, a drop police attribute to three major busts of local gangs orchestrated with help from federal law enforcement.
At a monthly community council meeting at Lincoln Hospital on Jan. 9, where NYPD brass and residents discuss issues of law, order and policing, Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack, commanding officer of the 40th Precinct, told residents his officers made inroads fighting gang violence in the neighborhood in 2012.
But while NYPD officials and residents alike are breathing a sigh of relief that 14 percent fewer violent crimes were reported this year than in 2011, local activists say there is another safety issue they want cops to focus on.
Residents and a City Councilwoman urged McCormack to clamp down on reckless truck drivers in Mott Haven to help put a halt to accidents in which pedestrians have been badly hurt, noting two such accidents had occurred on East 138th St. within a month before the meeting.
“We shouldn’t have to wait until somebody dies to see we have a problem,” said Community Board 1 member Mychal Johnson.
On Dec. 13, 69-year-old Mott Haven resident Ignacio Cubano was struck and killed as he crossed E. 138th St. and St. Ann’s Avenue. On Jan. 7, an elderly woman was critically injured crossing the same street.
“I drive down Brook Avenue and I’ve had children jump right out between two cars into the street,” said council president Gabriel de Jesus. “This is a big safety issue in our community.”
Trucks that illegally use East 138th St. as a shortcut off the Major Deegan Expressway are to blame, said Harry Bubbins, executive director of the local group Friends of Brook Park. The driver who hit Cubano was not making a local delivery but has not been charged with a crime or issued a summons, Bubbins pointed out.
In 2012, the 40th Precinct didn’t write a single ticket for a truck route violation, he added. McCormack agreed to look into the problem, but added pedestrians have to exercise more caution on 138th St.
City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose district includes part of Mott Haven, suggested NYPD add patrols along routes where trucks drive too fast and sometimes stop at random.
“It’s illegal for these trucks to be using 138th St., so why are we not enforcing this?” she said.
But McCormack said pedestrians should exercise caution when crossing East 138th St.
“Most of the victims are elderly, and they are making mistakes,” McCormack said, adding he would look into the problem. “It’s such a long block.”
On Jan. 13, just four days after the meeting, another truck hit and pinned a pedestrian at the corner of East 138th St. and Brown Place.
Overall, crimes in Mott Haven were down slightly in the seven major categories the NYPD uses to gauge public safety: homicide, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny, robbery, rape and car theft. There were 1,606 crimes reported in 2012, compared with 1,681 in 2011.
The number of murders declined from 21 in 2011 to 12 in 2012. Felony assaults were also down, from 456 to 390. The number of rapes rose slightly, from 23 in 2011 to 26 last year.
McCormack attributed the fall in violent crime, in part, to three recent busts in which cops from the 40th Precinct collaborated with federal law enforcement officers in arresting over 100 members of local gangs.
“When I came to the precinct, I promised to get rid of the violence,” said McCormack who took command of the Alexander Street stationhouse in September 2011.
“In 2012 we had three federal takedowns. That’s incredible,” he said. “People pray to get one every couple of years.”
Robberies, however, shot up from 397 in 2011 to 478, and grand larcenies rose from 412 to 469. NYPD classifies non-violent theft of over $1,000 or more of cash or merchandise as grand larceny.
A spate of phone thefts was he reason for the increase in those two categories, many of which were committed by 14- 20-year-old men, McCormack said, adding many such incidents occur on the premises of local public housing developments. Mott Haven Houses and the Patterson Houses have been particularly hard hit with youth robberies, he explained, and vowed to deploy more officers to those complexes in 2013.
Officers issued more summonses than in the past five years, McCormack added, and predicted a further drop in crime thanks in part to 31 new rookie cops who were recently assigned to the precinct.
“My guys are doing a lot more than they have in the past,” he said.